It came to light last week that Wahlburgers — the burger chain owned by the chef-and-actors Wahlberg brothers — is due to open its first European restaurant in London’s Covent Garden this year, the latest in a list of U.S. chains to smell the blood that’s dripping into the Atlantic from the UK’s floundering casual dining scene. As it happens, there’s a twist; Mark Wahlberg (the famous brother) will reportedly be “beaming in” to the Covent Garden restaurant to “chat to diners,” in what could well be among the creepier restaurant gimmicks of 2018.
Wahlburgers has never been afraid to leverage Mark and Donnie’s celebrity in the pursuit of business — the chain is the subject of a reality TV show that has run since 2014 despite being little more than “empty calories” — and yet, the idea of Marky Mark Skyping in from the treadmill, all sweaty and red faced and genuine, to say “happy birthday” to grandma, while 100 other people sit gawking at nearby tables, Wahl Sauce™ dripping down their wrists, wishing they could be so lucky, is just a bit of an... acquired taste.
According to the Evening Standard, Wahlberg said of the plan: “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.”
Just like that, at the pop of a button, another chain is proving that you really can market pretty much anything to London — a ball-pit bar, an Aperol canal complete with row boats, or Mark Wahlberg’s perpetually furrowed brow simulcast on dozens of TV screens — and there’ll be people willing to line up for it. At the very least, here’s hoping his contributions are a little more enthusiastic than this.