Whataburger fans eagerly line up
For Laura Ferguson, Whataburger represents some nostalgia.
The Independence resident has lived in the metro area for about 30 years but was born and raised in Texas, where the San Antonio-based fast food restaurant chain has been a favorite for decades.
“A lot of good memories and fun times with the family,” Ferguson said as she waited the final hour before Whataburger opened its Independence location at Valley View Parkway and U.S. 40 at 11 a.m. Monday, its second location in the metro area.
Ferguson couldn't make the Lee's Summit opening a couple weeks ago and arranged her schedule to be among the first in line in Independence. She arrived about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, decked out in a restaurant-themed Christmas sweater. She was the first customer for a few hours. She also was able to get some remote work done while waiting.
“That was the goal,” she said. “I'm just excited to have it here.”
Frank and Missy Johnson of Sugar Creek, who were a couple of cars back and in line at 5 a.m., said one of the first things they do after they fly into Texas is go to Whataburger. Frank said he lived in Texas for several years and introduced his wife to his favorite burger chain.
The couple, like Ferguson, said their favorite item is a regular Whataburger with cheese.
“Something about the seasoning and spices, and it's prepared how you like,” Ferguson said. At 11:04 a.m., she left the drive-thru with a couple of bags of burgers to take to co-workers.
As the restaurant welcomed its first few walk-in customers and drive-thru orders, the early consensus was that the Independence opening wasn't as crazy as the Lee's Summit opening, where traffic quickly backed up on a main thoroughfare all the way to Interstate 470.
In Independence, police designated a lane of westbound U.S. 40 for Whataburger traffic and funneled customers solely through there from Little Blue Parkway, keeping Valley View Parkway free of traffic for that restaurant. That plan is tentatively in place until Friday, though police said they would monitor the situation for possible changes.
About 15 minutes before opening, the line of cars stretched well back from the entrance off U.S. 40 to the designated westbound lane.
Mike Garza, senior area manager for Whataburger, said some employees trained a few hours at the Lee's Summit location, and the restaurant knew from that opening and curiosity during practice runs to expect a big, long rush of customers Monday. Some people saw the practice runs at the drive-thru and thought the restaurant was already open, he said.
“I think the city has done a good job communicating the route for traffic, and we knew from our two weeks of practice runs that interest was high,” Garza said, adding that the restaurant set up an outdoor break tent for employees and had a truck with extra food supplies on hand.
“We have a plan for each one of the openings,” he said.
Whataburger will open Tuesday for dine-in at 6 a.m., though the drive-thru will be open 24 hours.