If written screams were real, Whataburger corporate would be deaf by now.
A quick glimpse at Whataburger’s Facebook page – which the burger chain used to announce the return of the Patty Melt sandwich last week – reveals digital squeals, peals, and shouts of joy.
“When we announced on our Facebook page that the Patty Melt was returning, we instantly got thousands of likes,” says Rich Scheffler, group director of marketing at Whataburger.
Fans have come to expect rewarding behavior from Whataburger. The company’s strategy on Facebook is called Fans Hear it First: the marketing staff will post information about upcoming LTOs in advance of official announcements. The Patty Melt news hit Facebook two days before the press release went live.
The Patty Melt is one of Whataburger’s fan favorites, according to Scheffler. It debuted as a limited-time menu item in July 2008 and spurned a Facebook page of its own, created by enthusiasts of the sandwich. About 200 food lovers flocked to the page and scattered it with pleas to bring back the sandwich full time
“Now just keep it on the menu so I can eat Whataburger twice a week, instead of only when the Patty Melt is around!” fans wrote.
“We get a lot of requests to bring back menu items permanently,” Schefller says. “Ultimately, [our menu decisions] are based on what the fans like.”
The strategy at Whataburger is to reintroduce limited-time offers for periods of five to six weeks based on flavor profiles. But Scheffler says the possibility of making an LTO such as the Patty Melt into a permanent menu fixture is slim because, “We enjoy bringing back our menu items in different forms.”
While Facebook reaches a dedicated marquee audience, the marketing team at Whataburger has planned copious publicizing as well. TV, radio, outdoor marketing, digital shots, and additional social media will work in conjunction to spread the word, says Scheffler.
One of the selling points of the Patty Melt is the Creamy Pepper Sauce. “Fans just love that recipe,” Scheffler says. The sauce complements the sandwich’s Monterrey Jack cheese, grilled onions, and beef patties well enough to send fans into a frenzy.
Patty Melt lovers have until August 15 to devour their sandwich before it disappears from menus. With four weeks left to enjoy it, however, they appear unconcerned about the impending doomsday. “I’ll drive 30 miles to the nearest location for this burger!” one fan writes. “Yum.”
By Sonya Chudgar
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