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City Weekend gets an exclusive interview with Hollywood celebrity and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg on the opening of American burger chain Wahlburgers. Wahlburgers is run by the Wahlberg family and will be expanding to Asia, starting with its first three locations in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Wuhan. We ask Mark Wahlberg about his burger likes and dislikes and what we should expect from Wahlburgers in China.

City Weekend:
Which came first, the punny name or the idea to open a burger restaurant?

Mark Wahlberg: The idea of a burgers restaurant was first. Growing up, we all loved to eat burgers, so it made sense to leverage Paul’s expertise to open a burger concept. Of course, once that was decided, the name Wahlburgers was a natural.

CW: What has been the biggest challenge to get started in Shanghai?

MW: We are early in the process, so I don’t think we’ve yet faced what will be our biggest challenge in opening in Shanghai. It will of course be the start of building our brand in one of the world’s largest markets, and in a city with very high standards for food. So, I’m sure delivering a fantastic experience that does credit to both our brand and Shanghai will be a challenge, but we are up for the challenge.

CW: How much can we expect the menu in China to differ from what Wahlburger serves in the States?

MW: Our partners and we agree that, at its core, what we need to deliver is a Wahlburgers experience built around our core products. Having said that, of course we need to adapt the menu to satisfy local tastes. That balance will be developed in conjunction with David Laris, Wahlburgers Asia Pacific’s very talented concept leader who will team with Paul on adapting Wahlburgers for China.

CW: Wahlburgers serves “a spin on Wahlberg family favorites”. What does your mother think of the food? Did you have to get her approval on the final product?

MW: Alma loves the food! She even made her own contribution to the menu with Alma’s macaroni salad.

CW: Tell us a little bit about it was like eating in the Wahlberg household growing up.

MW: My mom and my dad always made sure that every meal was special. We always ate together.

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Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Mark Wahlberg, alongside brothers Donnie and Paul simultaneously brought their burger concept, Wahlburgers, to Hollywood this week andannounced that their chain it will expand to Asia in 2017 through a joint venture with Cachet Hospitality Group (CHG). The first three restaurants are slated to open in Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Shanghai, China.

“We’re excited about this wonderful opportunity to grow in Asia,” said Wahlburgers CEO Rick Vanzura. “Having a savvy, financially strong partner is essential and we have a great partner in the Cachet Hospitality Group, which will bring an unprecedented level of service and strength to the Wahlburgers brand. Cachet is dedicated to family, community and, of course, bringing diverse groups of people together through great food – the very same values that drive Wahlburgers. Thanks to Cachet, we already have our first confirmed restaurant projects outside of North America, and we look forward to making history together.”

The Cachet Hospitality Group (CHG), an international hospitality branding and management company based in Hong Kong, is well known in the region for excellence and a growing focus on social responsibility. According to CEO Alexander Mirza, “This is an excellent time to enter the Asia market, especially China, where dramatic growth in US-style destination malls with increasing space committed to restaurants as mall owners see both traffic and income rise dramatically….This combines perfectly with the explosive popularity of international restaurant brands in China’s malls and airports, opening the door to tremendous opportunity for Wahlburgers and our Asia Pacific joint venture.”

Based on the lure of Wahlburgers, CHG has signed major agreements with developers who have committed to including Wahlburgers restaurants in their projects. World Packaging Center, an existing CHG developer, agreed to sign the first restaurant in Hangzhou. Shanghai-based naked Hub has agreed to open 20 Wahlburgers in their office building complexes throughout Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thailand’s Big Ho Corporation will open 20 Wahlburgers in its franchise location of Big C Supercenter stores throughout northern Thailand.

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