The gourmet-burger chain founded by the Wahlberg brothers is rapidly expanding. The Boston-based chain, called Wahlburgers, has signed agreements with five franchise groups to open 30 new restaurants in seven states: Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and South Carolina, the company told Business Insider. Today the chain has only seven open restaurants. The new agreements bring the total number of restaurants set to open over the five to seven years to 118, Wahlburgers CEO Rick Vanzura told Business Insider in an interview. The cities that will get Wahlburger locations include: Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Los Angeles; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland; Detroit; Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and greater San Francisco. The company has also made previous agreements to open in Manhattan, Orlando, Philadelphia, Long Island, and Washington, D.C.
Wahlburgers is competing with other better-burger chains such as Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Smashburger. But it has a unique advantage over those chains: Wahlburgers is the subject of an Emmy-nominated reality-TV show, which was recently approved for two more 14-episode seasons on A&E. Opening a restaurant might seem like an odd choice for Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, who are best known for their acting and singing. But the lesser-known Wahlberg brother—Paul—is a classically trained chef who has been in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years. The privately held company doesn’t release many details about its financials. Vanzura said the original Wahlburgers location generated about $5 million in sales annually, but he noted that he would not expect that volume for every restaurant going forward. By comparison, Shake Shack’s 41 company-owned restaurants generate about $5.4 million annually, company filings show. Shake Shack, which went public last year, has a market value of about $1.5 billion.
The average ticket at Wahlburgers restaurants is roughly $14 to $15 a person for a drink, side dish, and burger, with tax. The restaurants feature a full bar with craft beer, wine, and liquor, and menu items such as the O.F.D—a half-pound beef burger with house-made tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese, and sautéed mushrooms—and sandwiches like the crispy haddock, which features seasoned panko-breaded haddock fillets topped with lettuce, tomato, and balsamic tartar sauce.
The menu also has turkey burgers, chicken sandwiches, and a range of made-to-order salads. Sides include classic or sweet-potato fries, tater tots, onion rings, chili, and macaroni salad. As at Five Guys and Shake Shack, Wahlburgers customers can order their food at a register and pick it up at the counter. But Wahlburgers also offers full table service, and it puts a strong emphasis on dining in. Vanzura says the company is still looking for franchisee groups to open additional locations.
The company, however, isn’t accepting any individual franchisees; it’s looking only for franchisee groups that can open multiple restaurants in any given territory. “We’re looking for people who have well-established experience in the restaurant business,” Vanzura said.
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