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How Wahlburgers Finds Success Through Feedback By paying attention to what customers truly wanted, the food-service brand boosted business.

By Jason Feifer

This story appears in the January 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Riker Brothers

In Wahlburgers' early days, the company surveyed its audience with a simple question: Who do you believe our competitors are?

Patrick Renna was sure he knew the answer. He'd joined the company as CFO in 2015 and would become president in 2019. The way he saw it, the competition was full-­service restaurants -- Red Robin, Chili's, Applebee's, and so on. But to his surprise, some customers disagreed.

"Consumers compared us to Shake Shack, Five Guys, and burger concepts that played in the fast-casual space, which is primarily counter service," he says. That was a problem, because Wahlburgers wanted to be something else. "We want people to know that we serve alcohol and that you can come to our restaurants and sit down and have an experience."

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