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Former Panera exec takes over at Wahlburgers

Former Panera exec Rick Vanzura.

Former Panera exec Rick Vanzura.

Dorchester-bred brothers Paul, Mark, and Donnie Wahlberg announced on Tuesday that they’ve hired former Panera exec Rick Vanzura (above) to be the CEO of Wahlburgers. That’s great for Vanzura, partly because he lives right in Hingham, not far from the Hingham Shipyard where the burger place (and chef Paul Wahlberg’s upscale restaurant Alma Nove) is based. “To be able to have, on a bad day, a 12-minute commute. . .,” a pleased Vanzura told us yesterday. Vanzura hooked up with the Wahlbergs after hearing about their burger idea from an acquaintance who knew that he was a big fan of Paul’s food at Alma Nove. Vanzura, who left Panera in December, left a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page and dropped the Wahlbergs his card. He wound up consulting for the guys, and then was appointed CEO. Vanzura says that even though the business is preparing for a nationwide expansion, the Wahlbergs will take their time. They’ll expand in Massachusetts and then consider their options for more locations. Wahlburgers will keep its Boston and Wahlberg-themed decor no matter where the new spots are located. Vanzura says that the “heritage and those names and what the family’s all about will translate.” For the record, Vanzura is also a fan of Mark and Donnie as artists, not just as restaurateurs. “I love ‘Ted.’ Let me say that. He obviously was great in ‘The Departed’.” Vanzura admits that he hasn’t always been a fan of New Kids on the Block, but “the more I get to know Donnie, the more I really like the songs.”

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