Where's Wahlberg? Celebrity Cache Found on Big Screen at FFGC
“Thanks for being here,” Wahlburgers’ CFO Patrick Renna told the audience during the second day of the Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference in Vegas’ Encore hotel. “People are genuinely disappointed when I’m the one who steps up on stage.”
The reason wasn’t personal, but rather because Renna’s talk was preceded by a video depicting heartthrobs and actor/singers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, along with their chef brother Paul, hard at work promoting the Wahlburger franchise, a 14-unit hamburger chain that opens to lines out the door.
The celebrity brothers, who have signed on for their seventh season of a reality show about the behind-the-scene antics at Wahlburgers, are the star power behind the brand that prides itself on serving chef-driven food on a bun. “It marries celebrity cache and proven chef-restaurateur credibility,” Renna said.
The chain’s Facebook page (260,000-plus fans) and Twitter (121,000 followers) account do well on their own, and even better when combined with Mark’s 3.29 million Twitter followers and Donnie’s 1.35 million. That's a lot of social media fire power.
The youngest of the three brothers, Paul, opened a fine-dining restaurant first, followed by Wahlburgers a few doors down in their home territory of Dorchester, Massachusetts. The fine-dining restaurant was a nod to the food he likes to cook; the hamburger joint to the food he likes to eat.
Although the number of units open is modest, there are 20 to 25 openings planned for 2017 and 339 units under agreement, Renna said. In addition, Wahlburgers Asia Pacific has signed an agreement to open 200 restaurants across Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Nontraditional units do well in airports and the restaurants, which include a full bar, are going into venerable locations such as Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and Times Square in New York City.