Bad Boy images are a thing of the past for the famous family; family is the name of the game for the Wahlbergs. A&E’s hit show Wahlburgers showcases the contagiously funny, heartwarming, Wahlberg family and their venture to bring family values to the forefront through their national franchise:Wahlburgers.
As many viewers and would assume the Wahlbergs 13 locations are in the cities you would expect a celebrity owned chain of restaurants would be: Boston, New York, Orlando, Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, Myrtle Beach as well as the obvious original Hingham, Massachusetts location, the hometown of the Wahlbergs.
And on January 10, 2017 the restaurant announced its location in Huntsville, Alabama at CityCentre.
As a Huntsvillian myself, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the news of such of Big Name chain opening at CityCentre. But the question lingered, “Why Huntsville?”
Most entrepreneurs would assume the first Southeast location for a big name chain of restaurants would be Atlanta, Nashville, or even Birmingham.
And if their desire was specifically to be in Alabama, wouldn’t Birmingham be the logical choice? It’s the largest city in the state.
So why Huntsville?
Just take a look at the numbers. Huntsville has a higher incomer per capita than any of theses cities, sustaining the $13-$14 price tag on a Wahlburger’s meal that includes a burger, soda, fries. And while it may seem appealing for a business to enter one of the fastest growing economies such as Nashville or Atlanta, it is important to enter a market that has controllable and sustainable growth, which Huntsville provides.
With operating expenses that are a staggering 32 percent less than the national average and rents that are 25 percent less per square-foot than the national average, the barrier to enter is significantly less than other Southeast metropolitan arenas.
Huntsville is obviously an ideal location based on the mouthwatering numbers that have investor’s eyes as big as the Wahlburgers, but more importantly, for the tight knit “community-minded” culture. Wahlburgers may be a national franchise but they pride themselves on giving the experience of a local, hometown restaurant.
In Wahlburgers’ national expansion the family seeks to grow and maintain the values cooked into each one of their restaurants. The values that bring family and friends around the table after a before a football game, after church, or on a night where mom deserves a break from the kitchen. The values that connect family and friends of all races, religions, and backgrounds as artfully as the colors on their handcrafted burgers. The values that are Wahlburgers- the values that are Huntsville.
As a downtown Huntsville enthusiast, I was curious just how involved Wahlburgers would be. So who better to answer my questions than head chef Paul Wahlberg himself?
K: Will you partner with some of the local craft breweries to serve their beer at your full service bar?
P: Absolutely. We always try to bring in local beers. To us, it is important to partner with as many local businesses as possible. I know there are several breweries in Huntsville and we are interested in tasting and trying their beers. Here in Hingham at our original location we have a plethora of different local craft beers. We also have a local guy who distills his own vodka here that we serve at the bar. We always try to find local dairies to supply our milk as well as a local produce supplier for our vegetables. We believe it creates a higher quality burger and we take pride in being a part of the community. We try to give in every way we can. We get involved with the local high schools and their sports teams and hang their jerseys in our locations and do whatever we can to help them.
K: You have a food truck at your Philadelphia locations. Will you be a part of the Huntsville food truck craze?
P: We do have a food truck at our Philadelphia location. It is the only one we have right now. That is something our franchisee, Gina Buell will have to look more into for that location, but it is not out of the question. I like the idea of having a food truck and being a part of community events.
K: Would you be interested in reaching out to downtown inc president, Chad Emerson, to facilitate downtown events?
P: Absolutely – anything to help grow the community. That’s one of the reasons we started this business in the first place was to give back to families and the community. I’ll be interested to learn more about Huntsville Events.
K: Five Guys is one of your biggest competitors. We have several Five Guys locations in Huntsville. What is going to make someone go to Wahlburgers over Five Guys?
P: You know they are great. They have a great business. We offer counter ordering but we also offer the sit-down order experience. And the full service bar is a big selling point.
K: Does Wahlburgers take into account the demographic of the locations and regional tastes? How does that affect the menu?
P: We try to keep a core menu across all of our locations but we do take into account local tastes and will add burgers and other menu items to cater to local tastes.
K: Can we expect you or any of the other Wahlbergs at the grand opening of Wahlburgers Huntsville?
P: You know that’s important to us. It all depends on schedule. At least one of us will be there. We all try to go to grand openings but sometimes with schedules everyone can’t make it. But we try our best.