By CHRIS AGEE
For the first time in the 17-year history of the "WhataGames" competition, Mineral Wells will be represented in the finals.
WhataBurger restaurants from 10 states take part in the contest, which measures participants' knowledge of operations, corporate history and customer service.
Maria Veloz, general manager of the Mineral Wells Whataburger, said she looks forward to the opportunity to prove what the employees can do.
"It's very exciting to be able to take our team," she said, explaining just 21 of more than 700 locations advance to the finals.
Though the local restaurant has never advanced this far in the competition before, Whataburger spokesperson Patti Fore explained one of the 13 team members representing the location has been a gold medal winner in two previous games.
Veloz said the competition tests participants in real-world scenarios, giving each team the opportunity to fully operate a functioning Whataburger restaurant.
"You go and run the store with your team," she added.
Beginning last October, Veloz said her crew began competing in the contest and advanced to the semifinals, which took place between January and March.
"Only 21 go compete for the finals in Dallas from April 20 to 22," she said, predicting, "We're going to bring home the gold."
Finalists compete for a share of $165,000 in cash prizes with each member of the gold medal-winning team receiving $5,000. Members of the silver team will get $2,500 each and all bronze team members receive $1,000.
In addition, all employees of the winning restaurant receive 10 percent of the finalist prize amount.
Clifton Rutledge, chief operating officer of Whataburger Restaurants LLC, explained 2013 will represent the ninth WhataGames competition since its inception in 1996.
"These 21 finalist teams have worked so hard to get here, and I congratulate them on this achievement," he said.
The competition coincides with the Whataburger Family Convention, which will be held this year at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. About 2,000 employees, including corporate and regional representatives, franchisees, and suppliers, are expected to attend in addition to the WhataGames finalists.
Rutledge explained the event promises intense competition over a three-day contest.
"It's so much fun to see the teams rally together when the stakes are this high," he said.
The local Whataburger store employs 37 people.