Mark Wahlberg and his bros go national with Wahlburgers
The UpTake: The Wahlberg brothers-chef Paul and actors Mark and Donnie—are turning their burger chain into a national franchise. While they’re entering an increasingly competitive premium burger market,an A&E reality show about the brothers and their business might help build their brand, Kardashian style.
Chef Paul Wahlberg owns the restaurant company Wahlburgers with his famous actor brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, and all three also appear in an A&E reality series of the same name that features the operation regularly. But now, the siblings are planning to bring sizzle to the family name as burger entrepreneurs.
So far the company has opened just two restaurants. The first opened three years ago in Hingham, Mass., where the company is headquartered, and the other opened last month in Toronto, Canada. But Wahlburgers announced yesterday that it is planning to open 27 more franchise locations.
The agreements include another 20 locations in Florida and seven in New York City, and they come on the heels of existing plans to open two more locations around Boston—their hometown—and deals to open three restaurants in Las Vegas, and five in the Philadelphia area. Eventually, the company tells the Boston Globe, there could be up to 300 Wahlburgers across the country although no specific timeline was given.
That’s not to say that just anybody can operate a Wahlburgers franchise, which is known for its burgers and cocktails. You don’t have to be famous, but you do need experience and a pretty fat wallet. Rick Vanzura, the company’s chief executive who joined the company fromPanera Bread, says he only considers franchise operators with considerable restaurant experience and a net worth of at least $5 million.
“We’re just fortunate that people are interested in it,” Paul Wahlberg, 50, told the Globe of the franchising efforts. “The family name has some celebrity status to it. But we still have to live up to that.”
There are a growing number of restaurants in the premium burger business. In New York City alone, the burger joint will be taking on existing homegrown burger chains such as Shake Shack and Bareburger, which also has big national ambitions, as well as Lorton, Va.-based Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Of course, Wahlburgers, which also sells merchandise like T-shirts, will likely benefit from the A&E reality show, “Wahlburgers.” It got renewed a month after its debut and features the antics of not only the three brothers—who all wear t-shirts claiming to be their mom Alma‘s favorite— but other family members.
Recent episodes include Donnie and Paul doing spins in a parking lot in Paul‘s rusting first car and then going to meet famous chef Jacques Pepin. Another features a cousin testing out a so-bad-it’s-almost-good rap about Wahlburgers in front of Mark Wahlberg, in apparent homage to his Marky Mark days.
Chef Paul is apparently the big worrier among the brothers, but if “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” is any guide, this much will be true. If the show continues to do well, the business dollars will follow.