We are used to seeing paparazzi shots and TMZ videos of our favorite celebrities hitting top restaurants like Spago in Beverly Hills and Nobu in New York. But many stars can be found at fast food chain restaurants … not as diners, but owners.
It's logical to expect that celebrities would open their own restaurants by capitalizing on their names. Sometimes they do, but those efforts often fail due to an underestimation of the work involved in owning and running a specialty restaurant. Remember Britney Spears’ New York eatery, Nyla? Didn’t think so. It lasted just seven months.
Franchises offer a preset management structure and the support system necessary to make a restaurant work, while the franchise can make use of the celebrity in advertising and recruiting other franchise owners. It's a great symbiotic relationship.
As a result, quite a few celebrities own fast food franchises — especially current or retired athletes. Consider these famous fast-food franchisees:
- Venus Williams – Venus Williams (pictured below) owns four Jamba Juice locations throughout the Washington, D.C., area.
- Phil Mickelson – Mickelson is reportedly hooked on Five Guys Burgers and Fries, claiming to have eaten them for six consecutive days. He owns franchise rights in Orange County, Calif.
- Rick Ross – The rapper is a huge fan of Wingstop and owns nine franchises according to Forbes, although Ross has publicly said he owns "twenty of 'em."
- Peyton Manning – The Broncos quarterback owns 21 Papa John's franchises around the Denver area and is frequently seen during football season in Papa John's national ad campaigns and promotions.
- Shaquille O'Neal – Shaq may be the king of the celebrity fast food franchisees. He reportedly owns 155 Five Guys outlets, around 10% of the outlets at the time of the reports. Shaq also invested in Auntie Anne's Pretzels, with eight locations in the Buffalo area and nine in Michigan.
- Magic Johnson – As part of his empire, Magic (pictured below) owns thirty Burger Kings. At one time, he also owned over 100 Starbucks franchises, but he sold those in 2010.
- Jamal Mashburn – The former Dallas Maverick invested wisely in 38 Outback Steakhouses and 32 Papa John's pizza locations.
- Michael Strahan – The former New York Giants defensive end (pictured below), now known as Kelly Ripa's co-host, purchased 18 Burger King franchises in Virginia in 2007 along with a group of other professional athletes.
- Jimmy Buffett – Buffett's restaurant efforts began with his own Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants, but he also invested in Krispy Kreme stores in the Palm Beach area.
- Chris Brown – The R&B star (pictured below) revealed in US Weekly that he owns 14 Burger King restaurants.
- Pitbull – The New Miami Subs Grill announced an agreement with Pitbull in 2012. He's not a franchisee, but he does have an equity position in the company. They have used "Mr. 305" (the Miami area code) to expand the chain throughout South Florida and have begun to open locations throughout the US.
- Drew Brees – The Saints quarterback became hooked on Jimmy John's sandwiches while in college at Purdue. He now owns five Jimmy John's locations in the New Orleans area.
Not all fast food attempts by celebrities are successful. Fatburger owners seem to be particularly cursed. Kanye West bought the rights to ten Fatburger franchises in the Chicago area, but only two opened and both were closed after a few years of operation. Former talk show host Montel Williams co-owned Fatburger franchises in Denver, but switched them to Epic Grills before closing them entirely.
Our favorite fast food franchise story involves Queen Latifah, who told Forbes in 2007 while planning to open a Miami outlet, “I grew up hanging out at Fatburger, so it’s pretty cool to now own one,” According to the New York Post, a trial witness later testified that the singer-actress-host had interests in Fatburger at the same time she was a spokesperson for weight-loss program Jenny Craig. Now that’s a multi-talented performer!
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