SAN ANTONIO – Effective Jan. 1, 2012, Preston Atkinson, Whataburger president and chief operating officer, will assume the responsibilities of chief executive officer. Tom Dobson will continue his role as chairman of the board of directors.

Atkinson began working with Whataburger in 1986 designing and building company restaurants, which he continued through 1998. In November of that year, he officially joined the Whataburger business, appointed to the roles of senior vice president of development, chief development officer, and executive vice president and COO, before assuming his current position of president and COO in February 2007.

During Dobson and Atkinson's tenure as a leadership team, Whataburger has expanded into new markets, increased sales and moved its headquarters to San Antonio from Corpus Christi in July 2009. Operating more than 720 locations across 10 states and with sales of more than $1 billion annually, Whataburger is a leader in the quick-service restaurant industry.

As chairman, Dobson, who has served as CEO since 1993, will continue to stay involved in the business, along with his sister, Lynne, and brother, Hugh. Still a family-owned company after more than 60 years, Whataburger was founded by Harmon Dobson in 1950 as a small roadside hamburger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas.