Our favorite actors, musicians, and athletes are all rolling in the millions thanks to their talents. But in order to maintain a steady cash flow, many have branched out into another realm entirely: food. From taking part in a franchise to opening their very own eateries, these celebrity restaurant owners are taking a bite out of the business — and from the look of things, they’re hungry for more.
1. Shaquille O’Neal – Krispy Kreme
When one thinks of Shaquille O’Neal, they fondly remember him as one of the NBA powerhouses of the 1990s and early 2000s. With the Orlando Magic, he stood as an unshakable force, and was only matched by the likes of Michael Jordan. However, once he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, we really saw what he was made of.
In the early 2000s, Shaq led the team to three consecutive championship victories. Once the big guy retired, we saw him take a number of side gigs. He was a cop, an actor, and even became owner of several food chains. Shaq owns 17 Auntie Anne’s pretzel shops, a Big Chicken in Las Vegas, and a Krispy Kreme. To top that off, this celebrity restaurant business guru is even on Papa John’s board of directors.
2. Robert De Niro – Nobu
Robert De Niro was one of the quickest rising movie stars of the 1970s. His career started with hit flicks like The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, and Mean Streets. He then went on to do films like Goodfellas and Casino. While De Niro still acts on a consistent basis, he has taken his interest elsewhere in recent years.
Along with Japan’s beloved Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro has co-founded the luxurious eatery Nobu. The two have opened up several chains across the world. So far, there are over 30 locations that De Niro and Matsuhisa look over, making this Oscar winner among the premier celebrity restaurant owners.
3. Jimmy Buffett – Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
With the release of Jimmy Buffett’s seventh album Change in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, the world got their first listen of “Margaritaville”. The song became an instant hit and outshined nearly all of his previous records. Even today, if you speak the name of Jimmy Buffett, one will likely bring up this unforgettable tune.
In 1985, Buffett capitalized on the song’s popularity and opened up a restaurant of the same name in Key West, Florida. As of today, there are over 20 Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritavilles in the world. However, Jimmy didn’t stop there. In 2002, Buffett decided to take his other big hit, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, and name a restaurant after it. Now there are over 20 Cheeseburger in Paradise Bar & Grill’s floating around out there.
4. Pitbull – Miami Grill
Pitbull first stepped onto the scene back in 2004, when he released a debut album that unfortunately fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until his 2009 release Pitbull Starring in Rebelution that he finally garnered a wide audience. From that point on, he has been a permanent presence on pop music radio stations.
While he’s still hot on the music scene, proving his resilience and longevity with the release of his eleventh album Libertad 548, Pitbull has been getting more involved in the food industry. He first partnered with Miami Grill back in 2012. Eventually, Pitbull became so enamored with the world of steakhouses that he eventually opened up his own steakhouse, called iLov305.
5. Rick Ross – Checkers
When Rick Ross first stepped onto the scene, he instantly found himself at the center of a bidding war between Bad Boy Entertainment and Murder Inc. Both of the struggling companies failed at reaching him, as he eventually signed with Def Jam Recordings. From there, we got the 2006 hit “Hustlin”, and the rest was history.
He most recently purchased a Checkers restaurant in his hometown of Carol City, Florida. However, Checkers is far from his first brush with food chains. He owns nine Wingstop franchises in the United States, and has even spat a few raps about their lemon pepper wings.
6. Venus Williams – Jamba Juice
The world of opportunities for women in tennis, let alone sports in general, changed forever when spectators got a load of sisters Venus and Serena Williams back in the 1990s. Together, these powerhouses dominated the league and broke new ground untouched up to that point.
In Venus’ case, she made history by becoming the second tennis player to ever win Olympic gold in the singles and doubles. With her career passing the twenty-year mark, it only makes sense that the tennis player would begin delving into other ventures — some healthy, fresh-squeezed ones. Venus Williams just so happens to be the proud owner of several Jamba Juice franchises.
7. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley – Rock & Brews
It may be hard to believe, but at one point, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were the rebels of stadium rock music. Going back to the 1970s, the band KISS was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Bands like Kansas and Jefferson Airplane suddenly looked plain and boring next to these wild New Yorkers with their signature face paint, stage antics, and pyrotechnics.
From there, the band became one of the first corporate rock bands and delved into multiple ventures. Naturally, one was food chains. In recent years, lead singer and guitarist Paul and bassist Gene opened up a chain called Rock & Brews. While they currently only have a few stores open to the people, they have a personal goal of opening over 100.
8. Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson – Starbucks
The Los Angeles Lakers are nothing short of legendary when it comes to who’s who among NBA teams. One of the team’s most beloved heroes of all time would have to be Magic Johnson. This legend’s moves on the court were nothing short of….well, magical. Between 1979 and 1991, he led the Lakers to five championship wins and put the team on the map.
While Magic’s career took a turn following his groundbreaking HIV diagnosis, this was far from the end for his business ventures. Via Magic Johnson Enterprises, he opened up 29 Burger King franchises and over 100 Starbucks cafés. This celebrity restaurant owner also opted to use his fame as a means of helping the needy, placing his businesses in lower income neighborhoods.
9. Nas – Sweet Chick
1994 was a phenomenal year for hip hop music. One of the clear reasons behind this is Illmatic, Nas’ debut album. It was an instant classic and quickly established him as one of New York’s finest. Nas would take his time delivering an album that could match it, but in 2001, we were gifted with his classic album Stillmatic.
While some rappers of his era have managed to release hits well into the ’20s, Nas has turned his head to the food industry. He partnered up with John Seymour, the mastermind behind Sweet Chick, the successful chicken-and-waffle establishment. Together, they opened restaurants in his hometown and other locations.
10. Kanye West – Burger King
Kanye West’s experiences with food chains have been hit or miss throughout the years. It was only in 2007 that Yeezy tried to bring the popular California burger chain Fatburger to his native Chicago. He opened up a few in the city, and they all ended up closing down. Talk about having some bad luck.
Learning from his past mistakes, it was reported that West bought ten European Burger King restaurants as a wedding gift for his wife Kim Kardashian. Hopefully, his new burger restaurants can be as successful as his music career. One thing is certain, many people are going to want to see what a Burger King owned by Kanye West will look like — or how Kanye will run his business as one of the most famous celebrity restaurant owners out there.
11. Guy Fieri – Chicken Guy!
Guy Fieri made a name for himself on the Food Network by appearing in the second season of The Next Food Network Star. While he immediately established himself as a stand-out character, it wasn’t until he got his own show Guy’s Big Bite that he became a household name across the country.
When the big bucks began rolling in, Fieri immediately took his passion for food in a new direction. He opened up a slew of steakhouses and bar and grill restaurants. However, his most talked about endeavor is his latest restaurant. You will have to take a spin around Disney World in Orlando, Florida in order to have a taste. It’s called Chicken Guy! and they specialize in…wait for it…chicken.
12. Ludacris – Chicken + Beer
Anyone could have guessed that one day Ludacris was going to eventually delve into the food business. After all, his fourth and most famous album was called Chicken-n-Beer. After being hailed as one of the best rappers to come out of the South, he ventured into acting.
While he is now best known for playing Tej in the Fast & Furious series, Ludacris has appeared in over twenty other films. Paying homage to the album that made him a star, Ludacris opened a restaurant in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport called Chicken + Beer. He also owns franchises of TGI Friday’s, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Charleys Philly Steaks.
13. Peyton Manning – Papa John’s
Peyton Manning can only be described as a football legend, an all-around showstopper, and a gridiron great. The Louisiana native was drafted into the NFL in 1998, and immediately began playing for the Indianapolis Colts. After 13 years of earning the Colts a place of respect, he switched teams and began playing for the Denver Broncos.
While his run with the Broncos only lasted from 2012 to 2015, he delivered greatness during every game. He led both of his teams to Super Bowl victories and then happily retired after the 2015 season. Today, Manning keeps busy as a celebrity restaurant owner with a big stake in Papa John’s, running 31 franchises in the USA.
14. Jon Bon Jovi – JBJ Soul Kitchen
If someone hails from New Jersey, you can bet that they feel complete Jersey pride upon hearing the opening guitar riff of any hit Bon Jovi song. The band frontman, Jon, came into prominence upon the release of his group’s third album, 1986’s Slippery When Wet. The album alone established him as one of the biggest rockers of the ’80s and set him in a league of his own.
After spending years touring the world, he has brought his life back to the Garden State and has opened up a farm-to-table chain restaurant called JBJ Soul Kitchen. The restaurant is unique in the fact that the menu has no prices. All of the restaurant’s patrons pay for their meals on a donation basis. The chain has two running locations thus far.
15. Danny Trejo – Trejo’s Coffee
Since the 1980s, Danny Trejo has made a name for himself playing sinister henchmen and villains in movies. It makes sense when one considers Danny’s history. Before ever breaking into Hollywood, he had spent the 1960s with more than a few run-ins with the law.
Thankfully, he later embraced his love for acting and scored a number of minor roles that eventually led him to making his own movies. These days, film has taken a backseat to his love for food. He owns a Mexican food chain called Trejo’s Tacos and more recently became owner of a cafés called Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts.
16. Joey Fatone – Fat One’s Hot Dogs & Italian Ice
If you weren’t 13 years old in 1999, chances are you might not know the name of Joey Fatone right off the bat. Joey Fatone was one of the members of the enormously popular boy band NSYNC. He can also be seen in a supporting role in the classic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
That said, unlike Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone didn’t continue down the musical path once the band split in 2002. He decided to embrace his other passion, food, adding celebrity restaurant owner to his singing and acting résumé. In 2016, Joey opened up his own hot dog stand, called Fat One’s Hot Dogs & Italian Ice. Though the business ended up closing shortly thereafter, it still exists in food truck form.
17. Drew Brees – Jimmy John’s
The Texas-born quarterback Drew Brees made an excellent choice as to where to put his hard-earned cash. While many in his profession have a knack for being tempted to squander those big bucks on the simple pleasures in life, Drew has instead opted to carefully invest his bucks — in food.
The man who led the New Orleans Saints to Super Bowl victory in 2009 has kept his business in the South. He has a slew of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises and quite a few Jimmy John’s, all centered in Louisiana. As for his football career, you can still find Drew taking down his adversaries on the field. There is no doubt that this man still has a few championship victories in him.
18. Scarlett Johansson – Yummy Pop
Up on the silver screen, Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johansson acts along the best of them. Audiences were blown away by her performances in films like Ghost World, Lost in Translation and Scoop. That said, not all of Scarlett’s talents are centered around show business. A perfect testament to this is her boutique popcorn show in Paris, France.
If you ever find yourself in the world’s most romantic city, track down Yummy Pop, buy a bag of popcorn, and maybe say hello to Johansson if she happens to be working that day. Enjoying that casual bag of popcorn at the cinema? This is the way to truly level up.
19. Mark Wahlberg – Wahlburgers
If anyone can live up to the saying “making something out of nothing”, it would definitely have to be Mark Wahlberg. The man had a very troubled past, but managed to clean up his act, jumped into the rap game, and released one of the genre’s early classics, “Good Vibrations”.
After that, Mark became a world-class actor, taking part in classic films such as Fear, Four Brothers, The Basketball Diaries and Boogie Nights. Show business aside, he used some of his money to give back to his community, and opened up his own burger chain called Wahlburgers. This proud celebrity restaurant owner is determined to keep the burger chain in the family, as his two brothers are his partners.
20. Queen Latifah – Fatburger
When it comes to burgers, few are quite as big and filling as the burgers you’ll find at Fatburger. The popular California burger chain has been a local favorite for decades upon decades. Many rappers have tried getting in on the success and while some managed beautifully, others failed.
But where some have floundered, rap pioneer and Academy Award-nominated Queen Latifah got into the Fatburger franchise and has had the distinct luck of seeing her restaurants thrive. While you won’t necessarily have the opportunity to see Her Majesty behind the counter, she’s relishing this tasty chance to widen her empire.
21. Jamal Mashburn – Outback Steakhouse
The 1990s were full of amazing basketball players. All who lived to see the era still dream about it until this very day. When it came to NBA championships, it was extremely tough to predict who might win. Amid the greats of the era was Jamal Mashburn, who played with the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and Charlotte (and then New Orleans) Hornets.
Sadly, he was never able to pick up a championship victory during that competitive era. However, he did find great success in the business world. He currently owns a handful of car dealerships, a Papa John’s franchise, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, and most recently, an Outback Steakhouse.
22. Hank Aaron – Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Hank Aaron is regarded as one of the greatest baseball players to ever grace the diamond. He broke into MLB in 1954 with the Braves and played with them for 20 years. He then played with the Brewers for two years before finally retiring in 1976. Not long after quitting, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He didn’t retire from the baseball field and just waste his savings; rather, Hank decided to become a businessman. Today, he’s the proud owner of 20 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens and a handful of Krispy Kremes in Atlanta. Pretty good for a guy who is in his eighties!
23. NeNe Leakes – Famous Famiglia
NeNe Leakes’ career didn’t start with a boom like most of the celebrity restaurant owners on this list. In fact, early on, she was a struggling actress picking up minor roles and cameo appearances. She first appeared in The Fighting Temptations as a background exotic dancer in 2003. Her career would only go up from there.
Things turned around for her when she met with the producers of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. They immediately recognized a spark in this young lady’s eye and knew they had a star on their hands. The rest is history. Now in her fifties, NeNe spends less of her time before the cameras and is running an outpost of the Italian restaurant Famous Famiglia.
24. LeBron James – Blaze Pizza
When it comes to the NBA, every era has a few “it” players who become markers for the decade. The 1980s had Magic Johnson, the ‘90s had Michael Jordan, and the 2000s were defined by Kobe Bryant. Today, we have LeBron James. No one can deny that he’s caused quite a stir since his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.
He established himself as a legend when he won the NBA championship for the Miami Heat in 2012, and then won it twice for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron isn’t just kicking butt on the court, but also in the restaurant business. He has invested $1 million in the California pizza chain Blaze Pizza.
25. Chris Brown – Burger King
Chris Brown has had what one can call a very memorable career. He started out as an R&B singer from Virginia, and then morphed into the bad boy image we know for today. Despite having a few brushes with the law, he has managed to pick up his singing career and make quite the success story out of himself.
When he isn’t singing and performing before stadiums, Chris Brown is trying out another career avenue by delving into the restaurant business. Much like Kanye West, Brown has purchased a slew of Burger King franchises. So far, he has 14 of them to his name.
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