Hy-Vee amps up its partnership with the Wahlberg brothers by opening its first Wahlburgers restaurant at the Mall of America in Minnesota. The opening comes as Hy-Vee plans to open another 25 restaurants over the next few years, The Star Tribune reported.
Hy-Vee Chief Executive Randy Edeker was not initially interested in the partnership. “But I promised him I’d consider it,” Edeker told the newspaper. “Then we researched it and ate at a couple of them and finally asked him how the partnership would work.”
Edeker expects that 26 restaurants will open their doors by the close of 2021 in eight states in the Midwest. While the restaurants won’t be located in Hy-Vee stores, eight of the grocer’s brick-and-mortar stores are planning on selling Wahlburgers entrees and drinks.
The launch comes after Hy-Vee began selling Mark Wahlberg’s Performance Inspired Nutrition products. “We did a big launch with them, and we noticed whenever Mark came out to promote his nutrition products, we’d get a lot of requests on Twitter and Facebook about Wahlburgers,” Edeker told the newspaper.
Wahlburgers, a family-friendly, fast-casual establishment serving signature burgers and drinks, operates in 17 locations in nine states as of September 2017. The partnership with Hy-Vee will add new stores, while also listing Wahlburgers-branded items on Hy-Vee’s in-store restaurant menu. That would make Hy-Vee the largest single Wahlburgers franchisee.
The news comes as Wahlburgers is taking its hamburgers to the grocery aisle. Through an agreement with beef supplier ARKK Food Co., the restaurant’s burgers will arrive in grocery stores such as Shaw’s, The Boston Globe has reported.
“It’s just a natural progression for us,” Donnie Wahlberg, who oversees the chain with his brother, Mark, told the Boston Globe. “One thing with our customers, a lot of them are loyal fans [who] can’t always get to a Wahlburgers location … There aren’t locations in every city.”