How Whataburger Changed Fast-Food Buns Forever

You hear a lot about beef in the world of fast food. Wendy's brags about "fresh, never-frozen" hamburgers, while Burger King raves about its flame-broiled patties. Having 100% beef in your burger is all well and good — after all, unless you're a vegetarian, you certainly wouldn't want anything less — have you ever wondered why no one talks about the other ingredients on burgers? Does your favorite burger joint use fresh tomatoes and lettuce and onions? Is the cheese real or is it some cheap yellow byproduct? And what about the buns? Are they buttery, soft, pillowy hunks of toasted bread or are they just squished, torn, or tough end pieces?

Although most people are asking the age-old question of "Where's the beef?", the discussion of hamburger buns is still an important debate. Some Redditors debated if places like Arby's or Culver's had the best buns, while Time Business argued in 2012 that the following year would be the "Year of the Bun." But whether you care about its quality or not, there's no denying that the bun is literally what holds the burger together.

One Texan burger joint is credited with developing what we know as the modern fast food hamburger bun, all for the goal of making you say "What a burger!"

Whataburger invented the five-inch burger

When he came up with a restaurant name that asked customers to jump and shout about how amazing your burgers are, Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson knew that'd he have to go big or go home. Everything about his company's burgers would have to stand out from the rest of the burger joints. Not only did the beef have to be 100% real and the vegetables as crisp as can be, but even the chain's ketchup and buns were meant to be a step above the rest.

According to Wide Open Country, the story behind Whataburger's big buns started with Dobson's dream of making a burger so big, you'd need two hands to hold it all together. To achieve this vision of big beefy bliss, Dobson contacted a Corpus Christi bakery to prepare a batch of 5-inch hamburgers buns, just for the restaurant. Unfortunately, the bakery was unable to prepare such an order, as it lacked pans large enough to handle the task. But for a man like Dobson, pans weren't going to make him give up on his grand design. As the Texas State Historical Association recounts, Dobson found a company that would custom-design 15 pans just to make the 5-inch buns. Of course, the success of such a big burger meant that Dobson would soon need to order more pans to keep up with demand.  

You know what they say: Everything's bigger in Texas.