Robert Ranara, ’21 landed a dream job for most new college graduates—he gets to road trip for a living in the Whataburger food truck.
As the marketing coordinator for the Whataburger food truck program, he promotes their brand on the road across their 14-state footprint. When he isn’t traveling, he works in their corporate office handling administrative tasks such as obtaining permits and truck maintenance.
Perhaps it was destiny that brought Ranara to UTSA and to his career at Whataburger. Noting that orange is his favorite color, he picked two organizations that reflect his passion.
Working at Whataburger since he was 16, he began as a team member and moved into a team leader position at his store while attending UTSA. A huge fan of the company, his goal was to get a role in their corporate office upon graduating.
Initially Ranara feared he might not achieve this dream. Because of the pandemic, Whataburger wasn’t hiring interns, but he networked with their human resources team to let them know of his interest. When he graduated with his B.B.A. in Marketing last May, there were still no openings. But while on vacation later that summer, he received an invitation to interview for the marketing coordinator position.
“I’ve always dreamed of working for the corporate side of Whataburger, and dreams do come true,” said Ranara, who received the Whataburger Family Foundation scholarship throughout his time at UTSA to help fund his education. “I’m excited to keep growing and innovating with this company.”
His Roadrunner Experience
Starting off as a nursing major, he soon found that wasn’t a good fit for him. His managers convinced him that a career in marketing might be the path for him based on his personality.
“My Principles of Marketing course showed me that marketing was the right choice for me,” he said. “As we say at Whataburger, it helped me find my inner “W,” what I was meant to do.” Building his business acumen, he also participated in professional development programs offered by the college in areas such as networking and leveraging LinkedIn as a professional resource.
Ranara credits faculty members Long Liu, economics, and Wendy Boaglio Gratereaux, marketing, with helping him excel in the classroom.
“In my social media marketing class we learned various tactics companies can use to optimize their social media marketing. All my faculty were great in making sure I understood the material.”
While at UTSA he volunteered as a student ambassador with the Welcome Center and had the opportunity to give campus tours, work at commencement and even assist at Roadrunner football games and interact with President Taylor Eighmy.
Ranara noted that he was also grateful for Deyla Elliott, his student ambassador advisor, for helping him strengthen his soft skills such as public speaking, leadership and team building.
“I love being a Roadrunner,” said Ranara, who proudly displays a Roadrunner flag at his house. “I wasn’t content with just my undergraduate degree, so I felt my next step was to pursue my MBA at UTSA as well.” He began his graduate degree this fall.
Working full time and attending school full time is not an easy task. But Ranara was confident he could stay on track because he also worked 40 hours a week as an undergraduate.
“I knew that balancing work, school and my personal life would be very important,” he said. “I’ve always excelled when it comes to time management, and I knew the hard work would pay off in the end.”
On the Road with Whataburger
As a new program, two individuals currently operate one Whataburger food truck. Ranara envisions a day when the program will expand to include additional food trucks.
“It is a huge marketing tool for the company,” he said. “We travel to new and emerging markets and help promote the brand. It is a magnet for our customers.”
During his first month on the job, Ranara stopped to have lunch. While inside the truck eating, he could hear a lot of commotion outside. Stepping out of the truck, he came face-to-face with a crowd of people taking pictures with the vehicle. He was soon answering questions and promoting the brand from a parking lot.
“It is an unbelievable gig,” he said. “It is a great balance between office work and being out in the field for Whataburger. I never call it work. I look forward to going on the road trips and seeing how happy our customers are when they see us pull up.”
While the job varies month to month, Ranara said that typically he travels out of state one week of the month; travels regionally one week; and stays in San Antonio the other weeks.
His piece of advice for others who want to get into the food truck marketing business is to always have an exit strategy. “It take a lot of practice to learn how to drive the truck,” he said. “But, I always make sure when I park the vehicle I have an easy way to get out.”
Ranara doesn’t require an exit strategy for his role with Whataburger or his love of UTSA.
“Being a Roadrunner for life is something that I’ll always take pride in,” he said.
While he is just starting his professional career with Whataburger and content with his new role, looking to the future he aspires to become a director and eventually the chief marketing officer with the company.
“I want to keep growing not only Whataburger’s brand, but also my own,” he said. “With an MBA from UTSA, I know I’ll be able to pursue both my personal and professional goals.”