Whataburger Franchise Cost vs. Competition

Starting your own Whataburger comes at a cost. Let’s take a look at the Whataburger franchise and some of its competitors.

Fast-casual restaurants fall between “fast food” and a full-service experience. The hallmarks of fast-casual dining typically include food of a higher quality than fast food places offer, as well as a better grade of dine-in experience.

Fast-casual concepts are leading growth in the restaurant industry, per a 2018 study by foodservice research firm Technomic. Additionally, QSR magazine reports that fast-casual is the only restaurant segment to grow traffic in the past five years.

Within the fast-casual category, several concepts focus on serving a higher quality burger. Customers are drawn to their better, fresher ingredients that add up to a more savory burger experience.

According to Forbes, as of 2017, Whataburger held the highest market share in this niche at 42 percent. As an entrepreneur studying potential burger franchises to invest in, you probably know that Whataburger is a top player. But, starting your own Whataburger comes at a cost.

Let’s take a look at the Whataburger franchise costs and compare them to some of its competitors.


The San Antonio-based Whataburger brand began in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas, and has grown to more than 820 locations.

Until recently, franchise opportunities with Whataburger were limited and information about franchising found online was confusing and vague. But, according to the brand’s recently updated website, they are now offering franchise opportunities in Alabama, Arizona and Florida.

In addition to limiting the offering to only three states, Whataburger requires franchisees to commit to opening at least five locations in five years. Furthermore, you have to be a multi-millionaire, with $5 million in liquid assets and a net worth of $12.5 million.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Five Guys, based in Virginia since its founding in 1986, currently has more than 1500 locations in 16 countries and focuses on hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries. Like Whataburger and the others in this list, it has a reputation for fresh fare.

If you are looking to open a Five Guys in North America, you are out of luck. The brand’s franchise website provides little information about the opportunity itself, but does inform potential prospects that they are only “interested in franchise partners for select international markets.” They also require all candidates have at least $5 million in available capital.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger has built its reputation on maintaining a limited, but fresh and high-quality menu that hasn’t changed much since its founding in 1948. However, if you want to open a franchise of this popular burger chain, you’re out of luck.

The company’s president, Lynsi Snyder, says In-N-Out does not franchise. Nearly all its 330-plus locations are in California, and all units are company-owned.

Shake Shack

From its origins as a hot dog cart inside Madison Square Park in 2001, Shake Shack has grown to more than 250 locations around the world and went public in 2014.

There is no price an entrepreneur can invest to secure a Shake Shack restaurant because Shake Shack is another successful burger brand that doesn’t franchise.


A brand that does seek franchise partners to expand upon its around 400 locations around the nation is Denver-founded Smashburger — named for its technique of smashing its patties on a flattop grill at high heat.

The initial investment for a franchise costs $545,500 to $894,500, with an initial franchise fee of $40,000. The brand’s ongoing royalty fee is from 5 percent to 6 percent, and they charge an advertising fee of 2 percent.

Wayback Burgers

Started in 1991 and based in Connecticut, this fast-casual burger brand currently operates in 31 states and ten countries, with more than 166 locations and growing. Wayback Burgers is known for its creative burgers and selection of handmade milkshakes, as well as hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and salads.

With an accessible cost of entry, and a model that is ready to scale quickly, a Wayback Burgers franchise gives an entrepreneur the opportunity to open one of the top fast casual restaurants and tap into the brand’s impressive growth.

Potential franchisees of this burger franchise must have at least $100,000 in liquid capital. The initial investment can range from $209,000 to $524,500 — far below the Whataburger franchise cost. The lower investment level enables investors with access to more capital to open additional locations in a shorter time frame.

For more information on franchising with Wayback Burgers, visit https://waybackburgers.com/franchising/.

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