The gourmet burger chain founded by the famous Wahlberg brothers is planning a rapid expansion.
The Boston-based chain, called Wahlburgers, is about to open its sixth location in Manhattan’s Times Square.
Over the next five years, the company plans to add 100 to 150 more locations, Wahlburgers CEO Rick Vanzura told Business Insider in an interview.
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, and not just because of its celebrity founders: Wahlburgers is the subject of an Emmy-nominated reality TV show, which just got approved for two more 14-episode seasons on A&E.
The show, which stars brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg, has been paramount to the brand’s success so far, Vanzura said.
“It has certainly been a huge promotional vehicle,” he said. “We saw an immediate increase in sales with the show. And Mark and Donnie understand the importance of the show to the brand so they have done everything they can to promote the show.”
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.
Wahlburgers currently has five locations in Boston, Toronto, and Coney Island, New York. The company has agreements for additional locations in Manhattan, Orlando, Philadelphia, Long Island, and D.C. It also has an agreement for 20 locations in the Middle East, with plans to eventually have 300 locations overseas.
The privately-held company doesn’t release many details about its financials. Vanzura says the original Wahlburgers location generates about $5 million in sales annually, but 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 earlier this year, has a market value of about $1.5 billion.
“We understand that initial locations, being flagship models, might be more productive than we would see down the line,” Vanzura said.
The average ticket at the restaurants is roughly $14 to $15 per 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 housemade tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese, and sauteed mushrooms — and sandwiches like the “Crispy Haddock” featuring seasoned Panko-breaded Haddock fillets topped with lettuce, tomato, and balsamic tartar sauce.
There are also turkey burgers, chicken sandwiches, and a range of made-to-order salads on the menu. Sides include classic or sweet potato fries, tater tots, onion rings, chilli, and macaroni salad.
The chain prides itself on serving high-quality ingredients and house-made condiments and pickles. It’s also transparent with customers about where its food comes from. At the top of its menu, Wahlburgers displays the names of its suppliers of beef and buns.
Like 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.
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