Whataburger app becomes unlikely power outage map after Houston hurricane

Fast-food chain Whataburger’s app has gone viral in the wake of Hurricane Beryl, which left around 1.8 million utility customers in Houston, Texas without power. Hundreds of thousands of those people may remain without power for days as Houston anticipates a heat wave, with temperatures climbing into the mid-90s.

Amid frustrations with the local utility company CounterPoint Energy, which doesn’t offer an app, some Houstonians got creative with their attempts to track the power outages. They turned to the Whataburger app instead.

Whataburger is a San Antonio-based fast-food chain with 127 stores in the Houston area, according to Newsweek. On the Whataburger app, users can see a map of Whataburger locations, with an orange logo indicating a store is open, and a grey logo meaning it’s closed.

Since CounterPoint Energy doesn’t have an online map of outages, an X user with the screen name BBQBryan found that the map of which Whataburger stores are open could be a useful tool for seeing where there’s power.

“The Whataburger app works as a power outage tracker, handy since the electric company doesn’t show a map,” BBQBryan wrote in a post that now has over 22,000 likes and 6.9 million impressions.

“Well there’s a use for our app we didn’t think of!” the Whataburger X account replied. “We hope you and everyone else are okay!”

This viral moment seems to have boosted Whataburger’s download numbers. In the iOS App Store, Whataburger is currently ranked 16th in the food and drink category. Just three weeks ago, it was ranked 40th.

Though the Whataburger revelation is funny, the app’s value is indicative of ongoing issues in Texas, where residents feel unsupported in the face of extreme weather. In 2021, when Texas was hit with a fierce winter storm, millions of residents were left without power in dangerous, freezing weather. To make matters worse, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was spotted flying to a resort in Mexico while his state was in the midst of a historically fatal power grid failure. So, when Cruz made a post on Sunday urging Texans to stay safe amid the hurricane’s landfall, some constituents were frustrated by the hypocrisy and responded in kind on X.

It’s an infrastructural failure that a burger app has become a crucial resource for Houston residents looking for more information on power outages. The Whataburger app may be able to offer a vague idea of where there’s power, but there could be other reasons why a store is closed — after all, Houston is in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.

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