Customer Spotlight

Whataburger Builds a Bigger, Better Emergency Response Strategy With AlertMedia

  • AlertMedia_Icon_Speed
    Ensures Whataburger can quickly acquire accurate, analyst-vetted information about emerging threats to impacted employees.
  • AlertMedia_CustomerSpotlight_YMCA_OverviewIcon1
    Allows Whataburger’s centralized emergency management team to oversee the safety of over 50,000 workers across the U.S.
  • AlertMedia_CustomerSpotlight_MillerberndManufact_OverviewIcon1
    Enables Whataburger to segment and target sectors of its workforce with location-specific emergency information.
  • AlertMedia_CustomerSpotlight_CocaCola_SafetyIcon
    Integrated threat intelligence allows for a proactive response to a wide range of incidents, improving the safety of employees and customers.
  • Industry
    Hospitality & Restaurants
  • Locations
  • Employees
  • Products
    Emergency Communication Software, Threat Intelligence
  • Primary Uses
    Emergency, Business Continuity, Inclement Weather
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Prioritizing Employee Well-Being to Foster a Strong Sense of Community and Connectedness

In 1950, Harmon Dobson opened a single burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas, with the dream of building a bigger, better burger that would make people say, “What-a-burger!” Over the last 70 years, that single Whataburger stand has grown to over 900 locations across a 14-state footprint. While the beloved burger chain is now a household name, the company still holds firm to the community-based passion of its founder. Whataburger prides itself on being “home” to more than 50,000 employees—so much so that employees are referred to as “family members.”

Whataburger has a long history of caring for employees as if they were indeed family—which means prioritizing their health, safety, and well-being. Using AlertMedia’s emergency communication software and integrated threat intelligence, Whataburger can protect its employees and customers across the U.S. during critical events that present risks to family members’ health and safety, such as COVID-19 outbreaks, active shooter incidents, and extreme weather. With AlertMedia’s analyst-vetted threat intelligence—coupled with the ability to notify Whataburger family members in real-time with targeted precision—Whataburger’s commitment to keeping family members safe is a major reason why the brand has earned a place in the hearts and minds of customers and employees alike.


Overcoming Threat Monitoring and Communication Challenges at Scale

Given its large number of restaurant locations spanning multiple geographies, Whataburger must monitor and prepare for a wide range of potential threats. “On a day-to-day basis, our team manages all incidents that may potentially impact our business premises, family members, or brand reputation,” says Ron Derrick, Corporate Senior Emergency Manager of the Whataburger Command Center. “These can include everything from extreme weather events to local boil water advisories.”

Being a public, customer-facing business 24 hours a day poses additional threats to the restaurant chain. “In recent years, we’ve seen a spike in active shooter incidents and other acts of violence near our restaurant locations,” says Derrick. “These threats can have a huge impact on our restaurant operations, family members, and customers if they’re not handled correctly.”

Staffed by a small team of two personnel overseen by Derrick and backed up by a Core Incident Management team and Contact Center, the Whataburger Command Center is responsible for monitoring hundreds of locations across 14 states and disseminating critical information across the organization. “Our Command Center is the voice of truth for the entire company. We funnel information about specific incidents up to executive leadership and to the operations teams in the field,” says Derrick.

Before AlertMedia, Derrick and his team used a different mass communication platform to communicate with employees about critical events. Over time, however, Whataburger found that the platform couldn’t provide the functionality, speed, and accuracy needed to keep people informed during rapidly changing situations. To effectively identify and communicate about incidents that could impact any of its 902 restaurant locations, Derrick and his team began their search for a new emergency communication solution.

“With a small team responding to threats across 14 states, I don’t have the luxury of time. We needed an effective solution that was fast and accurate.”

Improving Speed and Accuracy of Emergency Communication With Integrated Threat Intelligence

To stay ahead of an increasing number of threats—the COVID-19 pandemic, growing acts of violence, and a record hurricane season being just a few examples—Derrick knew Whataburger needed a more robust emergency communication platform.

“The most critical thing I worry about is our duty of care towards every family member, franchisees, and customers,” says Derrick. “Keeping up with all our regular emergency management incidents, plus the additional challenges of COVID, hurricane season, and keeping locations open and exposed to potential incidents 24/7 became very problematic. It led to many sleepless nights as we tried to create a proactive structure that would allow us to convey potential threats to our family members in a timely, efficient way.”

After evaluating several emergency communication software providers, Whataburger selected AlertMedia for its ease of use, reliability, and fully integrated threat intelligence capabilities.

“With AlertMedia’s threat intelligence solution, we get a plethora of information about our restaurant locations and what’s happening in their immediate vicinity. We can then use AlertMedia’s emergency communication features to get the right information to the right people, at the right time,” says Derrick.

The benefits of using an integrated solution are a huge plus for the small emergency response team at Whataburger. Says Derrick, “The biggest benefit of using an integrated platform, for us, is because the information is automatically sent out based on the parameters that we’ve already established, it saves a lot of time in triaging incidents.” That means Derrick and his team can deploy messages faster and with greater precision than they ever could manually.

“Pride, Care, and Love” for their family members and customers are cornerstones of the Whataburger brand. “My team and I are here to protect the safety and well-being of all our customers and family members,” says Derrick. “To be impactful, it’s vital to provide safety updates and information in an accurate and timely way. If we tell someone that a tornado came through 20 minutes ago, that doesn’t help them. We need to get in front of threats and be proactive, not reactive.”

“With AlertMedia, now not only are we getting real-time threat intelligence, but we can improve speed and accuracy of communications,” adds Derrick.

“The way we control chaos during an emergency is through communication. AlertMedia allows me to send a message in less than a minute and get it out to our family members instantly.”

Protecting Employees in Every Situation, From Tornadoes to Active Shooter Incidents

By automating threat intelligence alerts and increasing the speed and accuracy of emergency communication, Whataburger can now feel confident that they’re always prepared to protect their family members and customers, no matter the threat. Since implementing these solutions, Whataburger has already relied on AlertMedia during several emergencies and credits the platform for saving time and improving safety in those situations.

For example, when several tornadoes developed quickly across Texas, AlertMedia alerted Derrick and his team to the numerous tornado warnings, and the team rapidly notified employees in the path of those tornadoes to seek protective shelter. “With AlertMedia’s dynamic group functionality, the platform notified employees in harm’s way—with very little involvement from the Command Center team,” says Derrick. “Automating the tornado warning communications to individuals in impacted areas saved us a great deal of time—they were deployed faster than we ever could have done manually.”

As another example, Derrick tells of an active shooter situation that occurred in the same parking lot as a Whataburger in El Paso, Texas. “We received information from AlertMedia’s threat intelligence platform that there was a developing active shooter situation at a local retailer, which was in the same parking lot as our restaurant. Thanks to the speed of AlertMedia’s intelligence alerts, we were able to communicate with our family members immediately—before the police even knocked on the door.”

To get even more value out of its AlertMedia investment, Whataburger has also used AlertMedia as a business communication platform, sending out safety messages and surveys and posing questions to its widely dispersed team. “The two-way survey functionality allows us to ask questions of our family members in the field to discover insights that we can’t gather from corporate headquarters alone,” says Derrick.

“At the end of the day, my goal is to go home knowing that we kept everyone safe and well. AlertMedia helps me achieve that.”

Fulfilling Their Duty of Care Doesn’t Stop When the Workday Ends

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my 35 years in safety/emergency management is that the devil’s in the details,” adds Derrick. “You’ve got to make sure that when you leave at the end of the day, you’ve taken care of all the details—and if you don’t, people can get hurt or your business can suffer. If you leave one thing out, it could have a monumental effect.”

By implementing AlertMedia’s integrated threat intelligence and emergency communication solution, Whataburger has further strengthened its commitment to keeping family members and customers front and center. By creating a safety culture that’s all about the effective distribution of accurate and timely information, Whataburger ensures its family members feel safe and secure—all day, every day.

“At Whataburger, we have a 24/7 duty of care. It doesn’t stop at five o’clock,” says Derrick. “AlertMedia allows us to cover every aspect of keeping our 50,000-plus family members safe—something that my small team simply couldn’t achieve on our own without this technology.”

“An integrated solution like AlertMedia is a huge benefit for a small team like ours—it’s so easy to use, and the customer support is second to none.”

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