In-store restaurants are nothing new for supermarkets, as retailers have teamed up with foodservice operations ranging from Subway (Walmart) to Wolfgang Puck (Gelson’s) for years. Over the past few months, two major supermarket chains have entered into a new type of collaboration with the foodservice business Wahlburgers, bringing a different food concept and a touch of celebrity to their stores.
Wahlburgers is a chain owned by actors and entertainers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their brother, chef Paul Wahlberg. The business is the focus of a reality show called “Wahlburgers” and is known for its fast-casual menu of burgers, sandwiches and milkshakes.
Beginning in 2018, Wahlburgers will begin developing locations at or on properties owned by the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer, which will open its first collaborative sites in Michigan and Ohio.
The idea is somewhat of a departure from traditional in-store quick service and fast casual restaurants. “We are currently in early stages of planning regarding potential locations. The Wahlburgers locations are expected to be outside of Meijer stores, not inside,” Joseph Hirschmugl, public relations manager for Meijer, told Winsight Grocery Business.
In addition to the stand-alone restaurants, the Wahlburgers food trucks will also visit select Meijer stores, offering menu items such as Mark Wahlburgers’ personal favorite, the Thanksgiving Day sandwich.
The Hy-Vee chain of stores, headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, has also partnered with Wahlburgers, and will be one of the largest franchisees of the burger chain. Earlier in 2017, Hy-Vee announced that it plans to build, own and operate 26 Wahlburgers restaurants and will also add select Wahlburgers menu items to the retailer’s Market Grille restaurants. The first Wahlburger at Hy-Vee are expected to open in mid-2018.
Both Hy-Vee and Meijer are also working with Mark Wahlburg to carry his Performance Inspired Nutrition products. The “PI” line of sports nutrition and active lifestyle products was created by Mark Wahlburg and health and retail expert Tom Dowd. While burgers feed consumers’ taste for indulgence and flavor, the sports nutrition line caters to consumers’ interest in health and wellness.
Both partnerships reflect shoppers’ current mindsets and demands. “These unprecedented collaborations reinforce our company’s longstanding commitment to health and wellness, culinary expertise and customer experience,” said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, CEO and president. “However, they also represent a bold step to deliberately evolve our business to meet the change in our customers’ lifestyles and spending habits. These partnerships keep us on the leading edge as the retail grocery industry evolves.”