Mark Wahlberg, the Hollywood actor, has secured a prime central London property to house the first UK branch of his burger chain, Wahlburgers.
Owned by Mark and his brothers Donnie and chef Paul, Wahlburgers has signed a deal to take a 6,000 sq ft, two-storey property at 8-9 James Street in London’s Covent Garden.
It will be the first of 50 in the UK over the next five years as part of the brand’s global expansion plans.
The burger chain plans to open up to five sites in central London, as well as others outside the capital and in Europe.
The first, a 180-cover restaurant at the former Maxwell’s site opposite Covent Garden tube station, is expected to open in September, becoming the brand’s first site in Europe.
Mark Wahlberg posted a video online stating: “I can finally make this announcement… Wahlburgers is coming to the UK and we have the best possible location – one of the most visited areas in all of the world, certainly in England. Cannot wait!”
David Rawlinson of Restaurant Property, who is the sole agent for the chain in the UK, was quoted by The Caterer as saying: “The concept is interesting, because it’s a really family-oriented restaurant. The burger lives up to the hype – it really is a good, authentic experience.”
Wahlburgers opened its first restaurant in Massachusetts in the US in 2011 and has since grown to 16 restaurants in the US and two in Canada. There are approximately 300 global sites in the pipeline.
Hollywood star Mark – whose roles have ranged from porn actor Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights to the buddy of a talking toy bear in the Ted movies – will be regularly “beamed in” to chat to diners at the Covent Garden venue.
The restaurant will have video screens that can be used for live FaceTime-style conversations.
The former “Marky Mark” hip-hop artist, 46, told the Evening Standard: “It will be very interactive. I can become a virtual visitor. If you want to talk to me on a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary just tell the manager and at the pop of a button I’m on the screen.”
Wahlberg said the time difference between London and the US should not hinder the “live” appearances, which could also be booked in advance.
“Most of my family are on the East Coast so it’s not such a problem – anyway, in this day and age anything is possible,” he added.
Other members of the Wahlberg family will also be available for transatlantic conversations, including brother Donnie, a founder of boy band New Kids On The Block and actor best known for his role in the Saw series of horror movies.
Paul is in charge of the kitchens at the other branches of Wahlburgers, which were the subject of a reality TV series.
The restaurant’s food is inspired by the Boston family meals cooked by the Wahlbergs’ late father, Donald.
Prices in London have not yet been set, but in the New York branch they range from $9.95 (£7.30) for The Melt burger to $11.95 (£8.75) for The Beast. A vegetarian option, The Impossible Burger, is made from “plant-derived heme protein”.
Wahlburgers will be 100 yards from another planned Covent Garden opening with a Hollywood link, the Wellington Hotel, which is backed by Robert De Niro.
DealMakerz reckons the Covent Garden site could get a lot of business thanks to the area’s popularity among tourists and its Hollywood connections.
But it’ll be interesting to see how well the roll-out goes given the tough competition and sky-high rental prices casual dining chains currently face.