At this point in the celebrity machine, you can’t go two feet without running into some sort of a celebrity endorsement deal. Everyone who’s even remotely famous seems to have a clothing line, a perfume, a reality show, or something weird like a car endorsement (remember when J Lo endorsed Fiat?).
But when they aren’t busy promoting themselves or the latest product to bear their name or likeness, sometimes celebrities and sports stars decide to open a restaurant or buy some locations of a well-known chain. We’ve already rounded up the best restaurants that are owned by celebrities, and here we’ll take a look at some unexpected celebrities that own franchises of well-known chains.
There are plenty of examples of celebrity-owned restaurants that have failed. See: Nyla by Britney Spears, Madre’s by Jennifer Lopez, and eight other notorious examples that can be found here. Classic cases of opening a demanding business without the required experience, many celebrity-run restaurants are best remembered as the butt of jokes.
But instead of going all-in and creating an entirely new restaurant concept, many celebrities who want to dip their toes into the restaurant game actually resort to purchasing franchises of already well-known brands, which come pre-packaged with two of the most important keys to success already built in: a widely known brand name and a pre-determined menu. Everyone from actors to singers to pro-athletes is getting in on the newest way to make a buck in the food game.
Some of you might be familiar with Rick Ross and his Wingstop obsession. The lyric "She thinking Phillipe's, I'm thinking Wing Stop" even made its way into his jam "MC Hammer." So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he indulged and purchased some franchises of the wing chain.
And before reconciling with her now-husband, reality star NeNe Leakes of the Real Housewives of Atlanta was romantically linked to John Kolaj, owner of Famous Famiglia Pizzeria. Insisting Kolaj was just her "business partner," Leakes snapped up a franchise of the pizza chain in California. So if it wasn’t true then... it is now. And these two are just the tip of the iceberg.
1. Rick Ross, Wingstop
Rapper Rick Ross might have been well-known for his feud with 50 Cent until recently, but the big news out of Miami (and quite a few other locations) is his acquisition of multiple franchises of Wingstop. Ross didn’t stop in Miami, opening two additional locations in a "restaurant buying spree” in Memphis." "Miami is my hometown, and I want to share my favorite wings with one of my favorite cities," Ross explained in a press statement.
2. Magic Johnson, Starbucks
Yes, we’ve already mentioned Magic Johnson, but let’s be honest, the dude deserves two entries for the sheer number of business ventures he operates. Johnson has a knack for working with existing brands and tailoring them to the areas he targets. For example, at a Starbucks location he partnered with in Los Angeles, he noticed that locals enjoyed playing chess in the area. Working with the company, he placed picnic tables outside the location and invited the community to visit and play. You’re welcome, Starbucks.
3. Peyton Manning, Papa John’s
Peyton Manning is a freaking genius. Seriously. The quarterback signed a deal to purchase 21 Papa John's franchises in the Denver area two weeks before voters in Colorado approved an amendment legalizing recreational pot use in the state. The jock stereotype cannot hold up in the face of business savvy like this.
4. Shaquille O’Neal, Auntie Anne’s
Apparently, Shaq loves pretzels. In fact, he loves them so much that his O'Neal Franchise Group teamed up with V&J Foods in 2007 to purchase eight franchised locations of Auntie Anne’s in Buffalo, N.Y., and a half-dozen more in Michigan with plans for expansion. It looks like he currently owns six locations around Buffalo, and nine in Michigan. According to V&J, Shaq’s involvement is minimal in terms of advertising but the door is always open if he’s interested. Pretty sure the world is ready for an advertising campaign involving Shaq, a shopping mall, and a cinnamon sugar pretzel drowning in butter. Someone needs to make this happen now.
5. NeNe Leakes, Famous Famiglia Pizzeria
NeNe Leakes of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame is a Southern superstar, ya’ll. So she opened a... pizza joint? In California? We don’t even know. But true story: she opened a franchise of Famous Famiglia Pizzeria in the Sacramento airport several years ago. Lucky for visitors, it’s probably operated by people who know some things about pizza making and Italian food. Sorry, NeNe.
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