The Real Reason Whataburger's Signature Colors Are Orange And White

When Harmon Dobson opened his hamburger stand in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas, he needed to find a way to set himself apart. He pulled from a classic Texas credo: Make it bigger. Dobson put a quarter-pound burger in a larger 5-inch bun that people would have to hold with both hands. He called his shop Whataburger because he hoped his food would be so delicious that diners would exclaim, 'What a burger!' (per Whataburger).

He also emphasized fresh ingredients and didn't start cooking the burger until the customer ordered so they could customize their Whataburger however they wanted. In fact, the company boasts that there are more than 36,864 ways to customize a Whataburger.

Another famous way Dobson made Whataburger different from other fast food joints is the instantly recognizable orange and white color scheme. Many fast food restaurants, like McDonald's, make their logos yellow and red, so where do Whataburger's distinctive colors come from?

The link between Whataburger's colors and aviation

There's a unique reason Whataburger's signature colors are orange and white, and it has to do with the founder's aviation hobby. In the early days of Whataburger, creator Harmon Dobson used his skills as a pilot to advertise his new business, according to the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas. Dobson would fly a Whataburger banner over the skies of Corpus Christi and drop free-burger coupons.

From his plane, Dobson realized another way to distinguish his business: By making his buildings instantly recognizable not only from the ground but also from the skies. So in 1961, in Odessa, Texas, Dobson built a massive A-frame building and painted it with orange and white stripes, per the San Antonio Report.

But why orange? Whataburger's classic orange color is similar to a shade called International Orange, a standard shade used in the aerospace industry to call attention to objects like antennas, runways (via FAA), and even bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

From his time as a pilot, Dobson knew this color demanded attention — and it worked. His burgers, which at first cost less than a dollar each, were a hit. And per the San Antonio Business Journal, the legendary orange-and-white chain has even earned the official designation of "Texas Treasure" by the state legislature.