As Preston Atkinson, current president and chief operating officer, prepares to step into his new role as president and CEO, Whataburger announced a slate of promotions within its executive leadership team, to take effect January 3, 2012.

Buddy Reno, current senior administrative officer, will assume the position of chief of staff. In this role, Reno will be responsible for working with the president and CEO to manage strategic projects and long-term company growth. Reno has worked for Whataburger for 28 years. Before assuming his present title in 2009, Reno worked as an area supervisor, senior area supervisor, director of operations, regional director of operations, regional vice president and home office vice president of field operations.

Clifton Rutledge will assume the role of chief operations officer. In this role, Rutledge will oversee the management of operations within all 729 restaurants in the 10 states Whataburger serves. Rutledge joined Whataburger in March 2001 as the director of operations for Texas, before serving as the group director of franchisee operations, the group vice president of operations, and then his current role as vice president of operations. Before joining Whataburger, Rutledge worked for Yum! Brands, focusing on operations for KFC.

Jack Sampson will be promoted to vice president of operations. A seven-year Whataburger veteran, Sampson is the current group vice president of operations. Since Sampson joined the company in 2004 he has held various positions, including the director of operations in the Houston area, he has been promoted to regional director of operations, regional director of franchise operations, and then group vice president in 2008. Prior to joining Whataburger, Sampson worked for Boston's Gourmet Pizza, as vice president of operations.

Rob Rodriguez will assume the role of group vice president of operations; Rodriguez currently serves as the senior regional director of operations. Rodriguez joined the company in December 2006 as an area manager overseeing restaurants in the Oklahoma area, before being promoted to director of operations and then regional director of operations in various regions in Texas. He was named senior regional director of operations in November 2009. Before joining Whataburger, Rob held various leadership positions with Carlson Companies as well as Brinker International.

"As a company, we are so fortunate to have such a strong and solid leadership team," said Atkinson. "I am fully confident that as we continue to grow our business, this team of talented, visionary leaders will ensure that we stay true to the core values and guiding principles that got us where we are today - proudly serving our loyal customers fresh, high-quality products with a smile, every time."

As previously announced in June 2011, Atkinson, who has been with Whataburger for more than 12 years, will assume the role of President and CEO on January 3, 2012. Current CEO Tom Dobson, son of Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson, will remain chairman of the Board of Directors and be actively involved in the business, along with his sister Lynne and brother Hugh.

Source: Whataburger