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Hingham's Wahlburgers expands with Canadian franchise

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 28, 2013 04:31 PM

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Wahlburgers is growing beyond the Hingham waterfront, with the famous Wahlberg family setting its sights on Canada.

Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg and brothers Mark and Donnie will open a Wahlburgers at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto next month.

“Having spent a lot of time in the city, we have a strong connection to Toronto and appreciate the vibrant food culture,” said Paul Wahlberg, executive chef of Wahlburgers. “The Toronto Wahlburgers location will help build on that by using local purveyors to bring our menu to life.”

Like the menu in Hingham, the Toronto Wahlburgers will emphasize locally sourced food, partnering with nearby providers in developing the menu.

“We’ll have core menu items, but we’ll have a different source for ice cream up there…we also tasted meat sources and meat combinations to get them to our specifications,” Wahlberg said. “There is a lot of research on it, it’s not slapping a name on it…it’s getting it done to as close as possible to what we do here.”

Some staples will remain in the restaurant, including the branding as well as Paul’s origional Wahl sauce, the BBQ Bacon Burger (Donnie’s choice), the Thanksgiving Burger (Mark’s choice), and the original Our Burger (Paul’s choice).

The restaurant will also feature sandwiches, salads, a variety of side dishes, ice cream, and the alcohol-infused adult frappes.

Also like its US counterpart, Wahlburgers Canada will combine a sports bar, seated dining, and a quick-service restaurant under the same roof.

Some things will be Canada-specific, and will largely be determined by the culture of the area and the requests of the customers.

“It needs to have that identity to the area,” Wahlberg said.

The restaurant is set to open in early 2014.

According to Wahlberg, the initiative is just the beginning of a franchise opportunity for the brand.

“It’s been for a while, this is something we talked about,” Wahlberg said.

Investors will run the Canada restaurant, set on a busy street in the entertainment district of Toronto. The new management has experience in running restaurants and hotels, Wahlberg said, which has the chef optimistic.

According to a public relations spokeswoman, Wahlburgers Canada is a collaboration between seasoned hotelier and restaurateur Henry Wu (Metropolitan Hotels), financier Michael Wekerle (Difference Capital), and established real estate developer Bruce Greenberg (Starwood Group). Several of the men were original investors in the Wahlberg's Hingham restaurants.

Metropolitan Hotels restaurant division will manage the first Canadian Wahlburgers.

Though the day-to-day operations will be run through another entity, Wahlberg’s team will help set up the model for the restaurant and oversee the company as a whole.

“I have to work harder to make sure it’s to [the customer’s] liking,” Wahlberg said of the initiative. “It’s an opportunity to make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and doing it correctly. That’s what it always comes down to, me putting out the best work we possibly can.”

Other franchise opportunities may be upcoming, though none have been announced.

“Obviously we’re looking around the Boston area and different locations. But at the moment, this is what we’re doing. These are people that we know,” Wahlberg said. “We’re very excited, the location is great, my brothers have a strong connection to Toronto, my brothers have done a lot of work up there, [and] have a lot of fans and support.”

In celebration of the expansion, the Wahlberg brothers are hosting a “green carpet” gala event on Sept. 9 in Toronto. The three Wahlberg brothers and partners will be in attendance, along with family, friends, and guests.

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