When these actors, singers, and athletes aren't busy thriving in their respective fields, they're venturing into the food industry, and some even forming a link between entertainment and food. From LeBron to Kimye, here's a list of unexpected celebs that own restaurants.
LeBron James - Blaze Pizza
LeBron James is arguably best known as an NBA player for the Lakers. But what some of his top fans may not know is that he invested about $1 million dollars on Blaze Pizza - a chain where customers can build their own pie.
James's share was split between his financial advisor and his business partner. According to ESPN, the basketball player's 2012 decision led him to receive $35 million dollars in 2017. One of Blaze Pizza's co-founders, Rick Wetzel, said, "When he [James] invested in us so early on, he established us as the market leader."
Robert De Niro - Nobu
Robert De Niro collaborated with Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Meir Teper, a film producer, back in 1994. The three opened up Nobu, a luxury Japanese-Peruvian restaurant. Today, the sushi eatery has 39 locations internationally, including Malibu, Las Vegas, London, Ibiza, and more.
The Raging Bull star also co-owns a New York restaurant named Tribeca Grill. He explained to CNN Money why as a successful actor, he decided to enter the restaurant business. The entrepreneur said, "They both have budgets, they're creative in different ways. It's like any enterprise. The movies are a business of a sort."
Toby Keith - I Love This Bar & Grill
"I Love This Bar & Grill" is a restaurant whose name was inspired by the country singer Toby Keith. What sparked the idea? His song, I Love This Bar, from his 2003 album Shock'n Y'all. And although Bloomtown Entertainment officially owns the bar, Keith's name was licensed for it in 2005.
This was a smart move on Keith's behalf, because according to Forbes, in 2013, the singer received $12 million dollars from the Oklahoma restaurant. The bar's website said, "From the oversized artwork to the redneck loveseats, everything about this place is bigger and badder, just like the Big Dog Daddy himself!"
Peyton Manning - Papa John's Pizza
Pizza and football - arguably a pretty great combo. This may be why football legend Peyton Manning joined the Papa John's pizza chain by obtaining 31 franchises! But, unfortunately, this partnership didn't last. Because Manning sold his shares in 2018 after the NFL and the pizza company stopped working together.
Apparently, Papa John's previous CEO, John Schnatter, accused the football league of being the reason why sales had decreased. Schnatter said that the NFL players national anthem protests caused customers to stop buying pizza. Despite this, Manning continued working as a spokesperson for Papa John's.
NeNe Leakes - Famous Famiglia
There is a lot of foot traffic in airports, right? That might be why NeNe Leakes decided to open up a restaurant in Sacramento's International Airport. The Real Housewives of Atlanta star doubles as a businesswoman since she owns a franchise of Famous Famiglia.
While some celebs try to keep their restaurant business endeavors to themselves, Leakes did the opposite. She promoted the restaurant's opening back in 2011 on Twitter: "Comin through Sacramento CA airport anytime soon? Check out my new restaurant Famous Famiglia," she said.
Magic Johnson - Starbucks and Burger King
Another athlete that decided to take his talents into the food industry was Magic Johnson. The basketball player had investments in more than one company. Including Starbucks, he and the company's CEO, Howard Schultz, decided together to open up at least 100 new franchises in underprivileged areas.
The second chain Johnson invested in was Burger King. The Magic Johnson enterprise helped create 29 locations of the fast-food franchise in Southeast areas. He said, "With these restaurants, we expect that, as time passes, new jobs will be created and relationships with minority contractors will be strengthened."
Ty Burrell - The Eating Establishment
Ty Burrell is arguably best known for his character, Phil Dunphy, on the hit sitcom Modern Family. But the actor upgraded his resume in 2016 when he became a co-owner of The Eating Establishment in Park City, Utah. Formerly it was run by Rick Anderson, who decided to sell the place before he turned 70.
The restaurant was a special place for locals, and it was important for Burrell to keep the integrity of the place. He explained, "We take it seriously, and hopefully, what little changes we make, the Park City residents will feel like they're improvements, without losing the spirit of the original."
Michael Jordan - Michael Jordan's Steakhouse
It seems to be a popular trend for famous athletes to invest in restaurants, but for Michael Jordan, rather than buying a share of an already established chain, he decided to start his own. In 1993, Jordan opened up Michael Jordan's Restaurant, which included a sports bar.
Unfortunately, the Chicago eatery closed down in 1999 due to legal issues with his associates. Nevertheless, he tried again when he founded the Michael Jordan's Steakhouse and it ended up being a success. Today there are franchises in New York, Connecticut, Washington, Ridgefield, and Chicago.
Machine Gun Kelly - The 27 Club
There is a coffee shop in Cleveland, Ohio, called The 27 Club, and the owner may come as a surprise. Machine Gun Kelly, or Colson Baker, decided to open the cafe in 2020. He explained the name saying, "The 27 Club is a bunch of artists and entertainers, and popular personalities that have died at the age of 27."
Kellys' intention is for the cafe to be like a memorial for the iconic artists. And since MGK struggled with addiction, he explained, "I also want to encourage good highs, like coffee and food and having that kinda bleed through the city instead of some of the other stuff that tends to get out there."
Ludacris - Chicken-n-Beer
Chicken-n-Beer isn't just Ludacris's third album - it's also the name of his restaurant. The artist collaborated with Jackmont Hospitality and created the classy soul food eatery. It can be found in his hometown at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, specifically at Concourse D Gate D5.
Ludacris explained why he went into the food industry: “I’ve become obsessed with restaurants. It’s the same feeling I had when I started doing movies; you look at them in a different way, at the direction, at how the screenplay flows. Now I pay much closer attention when I go out to eat, to the service, ambience, and food.”
Guy Fieri - Guy Fieri's American Kitchen & Bar
It comes as no surprise that food critic, Guy Fieri, owns numerous restaurants. Including Guy's Bar-B-Que Joint, Guy Fieri's Highball Lounge, Guy Fieri's Pizza Parlor, Chicken Guy, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar, and Guy Fieri's American Kitchen & Bar.
The Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives star has given fans lots of food recommendations throughout the years. This may be why some fans travel all the way to Las Vegas to try his infamous bacon mac n cheeseburgers. It's clear Fieri has a good sense when it comes to delicious food.
Kanye West & Kim Kardashian - Burger King
Kanye West has been known for going all out when it came to gifts for his former wife, Kim Kardashian. For their wedding, the rapper purchased 10 franchises of Burger King for his blushing bride. An anonymous source explained why he ventured into the food industry: “that’s where he sees her future career, away from reality TV.”
Separate from Kardashian, the Gold Digger artist has invested in a few Fatburger restaurants himself. The rapper worked with the company to open up a few chains, but ultimately only two ended up happening. It seems like this businessman has a thing for delicious fast food burgers.
Nas - Sweet Chicks
Sweet Chicks was founded by John Seymour back in 2013. Rapper Nas decided to assist the chicken and waffles restaurant by working with Seymour. Funny enough, Nas happened to be one of his favorite artists. So the two broadened the restaurant, opening franchises around the country.
Seymour told Billboard, "[We] wanted to have an amazing product while paying homage to its roots within the music community of NYC." Their website described the restaurant, "We're serving what we like to call 'New American Comfort,' rustic but modern American comfort food and twists on classic dishes and cocktails. "
Hugh Jackman - Laughing Man Coffee
Arguably best known for his role as Wolverine is Hugh Jackman. But what most fans might not know about is his philanthropic side. After Jackman learned that an Ethiopian coffee farmer he had met was struggling to provide for his family, the actor opened his own coffee shop, Laughing Man Coffee.
But instead of making it a business investment, the generous actor gives all of his cafe earnings to The Laughing Man Foundation. The foundation "supports educational programs, community development and social entrepreneurs around the world." The coffeehouse can be found in New York City.
Venus Williams - Jamba Juice
Venus Williams shines on the tennis courts. But that is not the only career she strives in. Williams owns franchises of the healthy juice chain Jamba Juice. In 2014 she said, "It is extremely exciting to open my fourth Jamba Juice location and continue expanding the brand's presence in the DC metro area."
The entrepreneur added, "I am pleased to know this location will have a positive impact on the local community through not only our products but also through various programs and fundraisers." Williams has four Olympic gold medals and four Jamba Juices.
Rick Ross - Wingstop
Rick Ross isn't just an accomplished rapper, he's also had success as a restaurant entrepreneur. The Run It artist is the proud owner of 25 different locations of Wingstop. Ross loves their chicken wings so much he even sang about them in his song, Burn.
The lyrics go, "Major real estate, them Wingstop's must be doin' nice / Trappin' lemon pepper, got me movin' two a night." The businessman said, "He [Wingstops CEO Charlie Morrison] knew I didn't have the time sitting in a franchise, but he saw my vision and my passion. He opened the doors for me."
Pitbull - Miami Grill
Mr. Worldwide may love to travel the globe, but he doesn't forget about his hometown. In 2012 he got joint ownership of Miami Grill, a restaurant chain located in Florida. They serve dishes such as Greek gyros, chicken wings, and classic burgers. The eatery had gone through many name changes, from Mr. Submarine to Miami Subs.
Miami Grill's website explained that working with Pitbull was like, "a match made in none other than the heat of Miami." But that isn't the only restaurant investment Mr. 305 made. The singer also opened a steakhouse in Miami named iLov305 (shocker).
Channing Tatum - Saints and Sinners
Saints and Sinners is a "fun... not fine" restaurant in New Orleans with good vibes and delicious cocktails. The founder is none other than Magic Mike star, Channing Tatum. He co-owns the eatery with his business associate, Keith Kurtz. They decided to open S&S back in 2012.
The website described the restaurant to be "Styled after the famous red-light district bordellos and burlesque halls of New Orleans' Storyville era." After visiting the city, Tatum and Kurtz absolutely adored the ambience. Now their restaurant helps charities around the globe by donating profits.
Eminem - Mom's Spaghetti
In Eminem's song Lose Yourself, he raps, "His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy / There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti." Sure enough, Mom's Spaghetti also happens to be the name of a restaurant he now owns. The other stakeholder is Union Joints restaurant group in Detroit (Eminem's hometown).
One of Union Joints' co-founders, Curt Catallo, described, "The walk-up window and small diner-like spot for people to eat add to the feeling that this is a homegrown, DIY experience." When it first opened, Eminem decided to stop by and surprise fans enjoying their meal.
Shaquille O’Neal - Big Chicken
After winning 4 NBA championships, Shaquille O'Neal thrived in the restaurant world. The basketball player is co-owner of Big Chicken, a food chain that first opened in Las Vegas. Since then it expanded to other areas in Los Angeles, New York, and even on Carnival Cruise Lines.
But it wasn't just his successful career playing ball or opening Big Chicken that helped O'Neal have a net worth of $400 million dollars. The businessman also invested his money into franchises like Five Guys, Auntie Annes Pretzels, and even Krispy Kreme.
Mark Wahlberg - Wahlburgers
Mark Wahlberg's brother, Paul, isn't a famed actor like his bro - but instead, he's a talented chef. The duo, alongside their third sibling, Donnie, founded a burger joint they so cleverly named Wahlburgers. Today, the trio owns 49 different Walhburger franchises. Locations include Massachusetts, Las Vegas, and even Germany!
The restaurant became so successful that it even got a reality tv series that showcased how it turned into a chain business. Their specialty burger is topped with mac n' cheese. Paul explained the inspiration, "This is a reminder, especially for me... thinking about those family meals. How much mac-and-cheese we ate as kids."
Jason Mraz - Café Gratitude
Many of these celebs seem to be drawn to the idea of owning a food chain in their hometown. Just ask singer Jason Mraz, who invested in Cafe Gratitude. The cafe can be found in Los Angeles and in Mraz's city, San Diego, where he was raised and now lives with his wife on a local farm.
"I was starting to pay attention to what I put in my body, and Café Gratitude facilitated that," the I'm Yours singer explained to Forbes. The restaurant helped him become healthier because they only provide customers with organic plant-based options.
Drake - Pick 6ix
Although Drake has become arguably one of hip-hop's most recognized faces, he never forgets his roots. The Toronto native constantly tributes his hometown by adding references in his songs. In 2018 the rapper decided to open up a restaurant in the Canadian city called Pick 6ix.
But, unfortunately for fans, it is no longer open for business. The landlord of the building claimed that he was owed rent money. Also, customers left negative reviews about the staff and the prices. This isn't the first time Drake's food industry endeavors have failed. His restaurant Frings closed in 2018.
Scarlett Johansson - Yummy Pops
Scarlett Johansson may be known for her superb acting skills, but we didn't know the star could also craft the perfect popcorn. Johansson, her former husband Romain Dauriac, and her sister teamed up and founded Yummy Pops. The gourmet popcorn store is located in Paris, France.
During the grand opening in 2016 the Avengers star said, "It has been a dream of mine and my family for several years to bring our favorite American snack to our favorite European City!" And luckily for the actress, it has proved to be a huge success.
Ashton Kutcher - Dolce
Ashton Kutcher also attempted to be an accomplished food entrepreneur multiple times. Kutcher and his former That's 70's show co-star, Wilmer Valderrama, founded Dolce, an Italian-inspired restaurant. Sadly, it wasn't as successful as his acting career.
Dolce was ultimately shut down in 2012. But that didn't stop the actor from trying again. He opened two other restaurants, Geisha House, a sushi spot, and Ketchup, which was opened in Dubai. Both of them, unfortunately, turned out to be a failed venture.
Pharrell Williams - Swan and Bar Bevy
Pharrell Williams didn't stop after winning 11 Grammy awards for his work as an artist and music producer. He continued pursuing his career when he and David Grutman, owner of LIV nightclub, worked together to open Swan and Bar Bevy. They can be found in Florida at Miami's Design District.
Grutman said about the Happy singer, "He's not someone who just knows music. He understands how food and entertainment come together. Plus, he's got this fashion and music vibe going on." The two have both proven to be successful entrepreneurs. Their restaurant, "features refined rustic cuisine and dynamic communal plates."
Hank Aaron - Popeyes
In 1995, baseball player Hank Aarons and his wife, Billye, created the 775 Restaurant Corporation. Since then, the company has acquired many franchises. Aaron wasn't just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame - he also had ownership of Krispy Kremes and around 20 Popeyes franchises.
The athletes' Popeyes were spread out around the greater metropolitan Atlanta area. But before the corporation was created, Aaron got his start in the industry in 1986. He worked with the fast-food chain Arby's to help them be the Major League Baseball's main eatery.
Jamal Mashburn - Papa John's Pizza and More
Jamal Mashburn used to play for the Miami Heat with the NBA. After retiring from basketball in 2004, the athlete pursued a career in the restaurant market. The athlete began investing, and today he owns 40 Papa John's Pizza, 38 Outback Steakhouses, and 3 Dunkin Donuts.
In 2018, Mashburn explained to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel why he wanted to venture into the business world. He said that when he was a little boy riding the train, he would always see adults holding briefcases. The entrepreneur added, “I was always curious of what was in that briefcase. That’s when the dream started.”
Michael Strahan - Burger King
It seems to be a common theme for healthy athletes to own fast-food chains... NFL star Michael Stahan bought a few Burger Kings located in Virginia. But it wasn't necessarily Strahan's idea. According to Boston.com, the Burger King Corporation wanted to "grow its presence in urban areas."
The former New York Giants defensive lineman owns 18 locations of the franchise. When other NFL players heard that the goal was to open more restaurants in mainly African-American neighborhoods, they too invested. These stars include Kevin Faulk, Donnie Edwards, and Marcus Allen.
DJ Khaled - Another Wing
Legendary producer DJ Khaled made headlines in 2015 for his catchphrase "Another One." So he decided to ironically name his restaurant, Another Wing, which he is opening with REEF, an operator of virtual restaurants. The delivery-only chicken restaurant has been said to be "the largest restaurant launch in history."
Over 30 different chains are set to open in Dubai, Paris, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and more major cities. Khalid said, “The same way music platforms enable creators to share photos or videos, the REEF platform enables creators to share and expand food experiences in a way that has never been possible before... game-changing.”