The nearly two-year wait for Wahlburgers is finally over. Last month, the much-anticipated, celebrity-owned burger joint from Wahlberg brothers Donnie, Mark and Paul opened its Fayetteville Street doors in the space once home to The Oxford. Though some were initially skeptical of a large chain restaurant moving in to a downtown that prides itself on its lineup of independently owned restaurants and stores—and delays left many wondering if the restaurant would ever actually open at all—Wahlburgers’ arrival has largely been greeted with excitement. Franchisee Greg Pranzo, who owns the Raleigh and Myrtle Beach locations, also has plans in the works to open in Charlotte’s Ballantyne area next fall, as well as locations in Memphis and Nashville. We spoke with Pranzo about his decision to come to downtown Raleigh.
Myrtle Beach was your first location in the Carolinas and it’s very different from downtown Raleigh. So how did you choose downtown?
Raleigh is one of the most welcoming and fastest-growing cities in the U.S. We feel that the family values of Wahlburgers mesh well with Raleigh’s charm and renowned hospitality.
Most of the restaurants on Fayetteville Street (with a few exceptions) are locally-owned small businesses or local chains with a handful of locations. Do you think that had anything to do with the delays in opening?
Absolutely not. The City of Raleigh has been nothing but helpful through the entire process. As a franchise location of Wahlburgers, we too are a small business. We look forward to working with our neighbors to bring more consumers to Fayetteville Street.
How do you feel about being what’s probably the largest national chain restaurant on the street?
We don’t view ourselves differently than any other restaurant operating in the downtown area. We focus heavily on family values and quality ingredients that are sourced locally whenever possible. We hire local and have brought over 70 new jobs to the downtown area. Sure, we have a name that you can see on TV and around the country. But that doesn’t change our commitment to great food and the community.
What makes Wahlburgers different from Raleigh’s other burger joints?
It all starts with prep in the morning. Every dressing and sauce is made from scratch daily. Every burger is made to order. Every frappe is hand-dipped. But aside from all that, the one word you will keep hearing is family. You could say Wahlburgers got its start in the Wahlberg family backyard and that commitment to family values has permeated every aspect of our culture. When you sit down with us, you become a part of our family.
Is it likely that Mark, Donnie and Paul will make an appearance on Fayetteville Street at any point?
You never know.
What’s your favorite item on the menu?
Although the fan favorite is also Paul’s favorite, the Our Burger, I share my favorite with Mark Wahlberg – the Thanksgiving Day. It’s a freshly ground turkey burger topped with stuffing, orange-cranberry sauce, and mayo on a butter-toasted, artisan bun.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Wahlburgers?
Just that we are so excited to be joining the downtown Raleigh community on Fayetteville Street. This area has become the heartbeat of the city, and we look forward to being a part of its continuing growth.