Wahlburgers is set to open in Queenstown. What celebrity restaurant might be next for Aotearoa?

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Opinion

News drops this week that the 112th branch of Wahlburgers will soon be opening in Queenstown. For those of you not fully up to date with the latest in celebrity owned calorie peddlers, Wahlburgers is the fast food chain owned by A-list celeb Mark Wahlberg, his slightly-further-down-the-alphabet brother Donnie, and their chef brother Paul. There was a reality TV show of course – 8 seasons worth!. Did I watch it so you don’t have to? No I did not. And I really don’t think you have to watch it either.

Despite there being 111 of these things dotted around the world, I’ve never seen one much less eaten in one, so I can’t tell you if this is a good thing or not. A quick trawl through reveiw sites suggests it’s a solid 3.5 stars out of 5 sort of an outfit. You can expect decent looking burgers, the odd deli sandwich, deep-friend pickles, and, according to Mark in the press release: “a breakfast menu, including a breakfast burger and bacon & egg roll”, something which Mark Wahlberg definitely said himself.

Mark also probably said: “The universal feedback I have heard from friends that have visited New Zealand is that Queenstown is a must-see destination. The opening of our store in the adventure capital of the world is something we are immensely proud of, and I am looking forward to seeing it in person.” Which you can read as “I’ve never been there and I probably never will.”

Exciting times down south then, and I’m sure all those American billionaires are looking forward to rolling open the hatches of their underground bunkers to welcome in a little taste of home. They might have to murder the UberEats driver for security’s sake, but what price comfort, eh?

What other celebrity restaurants might soon follow suit and set up shop on our shores?


Robert De Niro’s empire of very fancy fish restaurants might be a wee bit too high-end even for Queenstown. There are currently 36 Nobu hotels and 55 restaurants around the world hawking Bob and co’s reimagining of Japanese food through a Peruvian lens. Did well not to name it the Cod Father. Chances of washing up in Aotearoa: 2/5.

Planet Hollywood:

Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone are still shareholders in this very 90s operation but we all should have known the ketchup was on the wall when Arnie pulled out of the endeavour in early 2000. The motto “Dine amongst the stars” seems a tad optimistic. The brand limps on like a wounded (and elderly) action hero with restaurants and resorts in New York, Florida, Malta, and Qatar. Chances of terraforming in Queenstown: 1/5.


Susan Sarandon owns a chain of ping pong bars in the US. Sarandon appeared in the 2014 ’80s-set flick “Ping Pong Summer” as Randi, a former ping pong champion turned flawed mentor. Apparently the role was personal for Sarandon, who loves ping pong as a sport that is accessible and transends gender boundaries. There’s something extremely cute about all this. There are only eight venues, all of which are in the States, but we think this is the kind of thing New Zealanders could really go for. 3/5.

Hart House:

Kevin Hart’s 100% plant-based fast food may be brand new and currently only available in LA, but this healthy, ethical endevour seems just right to part NZ’s Gen Zers with their hard earned cash. Probabaly more downtown Auckland than Queenstown but whatevs. 3/5.

Papa John’s:

Shaquile O’Neil is part owner. Who knew? Back in 2010 with the brand in seemingly permanent decline, John Schattner (Papa John himself) dropped the n-word during a conference call. Shaq agreed to buy in to the brand so long as the racist old boy wasn’t involved. The pizza franshise has since doubled in value. It’s already here so happy days. 5/5.


About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

Related Posts

Break out the Burgundy and get ready to riot for Bastille Day 2024

Break out the Burgundy and get ready to riot for Bastille Day 2024

Ah, the Fench. Despite everything, you've really got to hand it to a nation who's most important national holiday celebrates a prison riot. This Bastille Day, put aside the snooty waiters of popular legend, the recent flirtation with the far right, the terrible...