Aside from fame, money, and being in the public eye, what do celebrities like Shaq, Robert De Niro, and Bon Jovi all have in common? Well, it’s simple. They’ve all decided to invest in some very popular chain restaurants. And when we say chains, we don’t just mean fast-food places like Burger King.
De Niro actually owns the high-class sushi restaurant Nobu and Bon Jovi owns and operates a non-profit organization to help the hungry and homeless population in New Jersey. Whether it’s their love of the food or the big hearts in them, these celebrities have purchased restaurant chains across the country and overseas.
LeBron James Invested About A Million Dollars Into Blaze Pizza
Blaze Pizza was founded in 2012 with one goal in mind, to offer affordable, fast pizza for the lunch crowd. The best part is the build-your-own option the chain offered. Starting with just two locations in California, Blaze Pizza quickly opened its 200th restaurant back in 2017, with the help of a long-time investor, NBA star LeBron James.
Former Blaze Pizza CEO Jim Mizes says James has been invested in the brand since day one, promoting the chain on social media accounts whenever he can. Mize said, “LeBron helps us punch in terms of our brand awareness well above our weight.”
Robert De Niro Owns The High-Class Sushi Joint Nobu
Most people know about actor Robert De Niro’s success on-screen. The man is a two-time Academy Award-winner, after all! But what a lot of people don’t know about De Niro is that he is a very successful businessman, having grown the sushi restaurant Nobu into a high-class chain.
The restaurant is run by celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, whose signature dish is a black cod in miso — yum! But that’s not all they serve. The menu is made up of fusion-style dishes, mixing together Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. Today, De Niro and Matsuhisa own 39 restaurants and eight luxury hotels under the Nobu brand.
Kanye West Bought Ten Burger King Franchises For His Wife
When people think of American fast-food chains, one that comes to mind right away is typically Burger King. Founded in 1953, the company had financial struggles for a few years before finding its footing in the world of fast-food. As of 2018, there are 17,796 BKs worldwide, with 99.7 percent being privately owned.
One of those private owners is none other than the Kardashian-West clan. Back in 2014, rapper Kanye West purchased ten Burger King branches in the UK as a wedding present to his then-fiancee Kim Kardashian. Because nothing quite says, “I love you” more than a Whopper with a side of fries.
Nas Helped Boost Sweet Chick To The National Stage
Sweet Chick is a New York City-based restaurant that specializes in chicken and waffles. Opened in 2013, Sweet Chick was first introduced to the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant became very popular, allowing for expansion to different parts of the country.
As the chain started growing in New York, bringing in local legend Nas seemed like the next obvious move. During an interview with Billboard, Nas’ partner Peter Bittenbender said, “[Nas] was a natural fit to join the team as he immediately embraced the food and culture of Sweet Chick and saw the opportunity to strategically expand the brand nationally.”
Gene Simmons And Paul Stanley Own Rock & Brews
The first location of Rock & Brews opened in El Segundo, California, back in 2012. But that’s not where it all started. Nope, it started with the idea of Dave Furano, the founder behind the idea of Rock ‘n’ Roll merchandise. After finding success selling t-shirts, Dave joked about wanting to start a rock restaurant where he could sell them.
Enter Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from the legendary band KISS. While Dave was backstage at one of their concerts, he casually said, “What’s better than rock and brews?” And thus, the ultimate brainstorming session began, and the restaurant Rock & Brews was formed.
Shaquille O’Neal And His Many Ventures
According to Sports Illustrated Vault, a staggering 60 percent of retired NBA players go broke within five years of leaving the sport. One of the exceptions to the statistic, though, is Shaquille O’Neal. The man did something right, becoming a franchise king after leaving his ball-playing days behind.
As of 2019, O’Neal owns 17 Auntie Anne’s, a Krispy Kreme donut shop, a Big Chicken in Las Vegas, and he even opened Shaquille’s, a burger place located in Los Angeles. And, would you believe he owned 155 Five Guys locations at one point in time? And let’s not forget how he turned Papa Johns around!
Dan Aykroyd And Isaac Tigrett Own The House Of Blues
The House of Blues is a restaurant and venue chain that was founded in 1992, with its first location in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And while the original site is no longer standing, 11 more locations are still up and running throughout the United States.
Initially, the House of Blues was founded on the basis of providing a place to watch and listen to live music, specifically the blues. And with one of the Blues Brothers at the helm, Dan Aykroyd, and one of the founders of the Hard Rock Cafe, the House of Blues is one of the premier locations in the U.S. to grab a bite and listen to good music.
Paul Wahlberg Owns A Burger Chain Called Wahlburgers
In 2011, chef and reality star Paul Wahlberg, partnered with his brothers Mark and Donnie, licensed the “Wahlburger” name, paving the way for their chain of burger joints throughout the United States, UK, Canada, and Germany. The first location was in Hingham, Massachusetts, and as of 2020, there are a total of 36 sites worldwide.
But this chain has something other restaurants don’t; it made it possible for the brothers to have their own reality television show on A&E, Wahlburgers. The series aired from 2014 to 2019 for a total of ten seasons.
Venus Williams Owns Multiple Jamba Juice Locations In D.C.
The first Jamba Juice smoothie joint opened up back in 1990 but has since expanded its brand to over 850 locations throughout the world. It’s not surprising that the chain became overly popular, with its fresh fruits and vegetable ingredients and the support of a world-class tennis star.
Back in 2011, professional tennis player Venus Williams signed a deal with Jamba Juice to expand the franchise and open five stores in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland area. During an interview, Williams said, “My partnership with Jamba Juice is an extension of my commitment to fight against obesity and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.”
Peyton Manning Owned 31 Papa John’s Locations
Founded in 1984, Papa John’s is the fourth-largest pizza chain in the United States, with 5,395 locations as of 2019. Having seen much success since its first store opened, in 2010, the franchise signed a contract to become the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL.
Cue 2012 Peyton Manning. At the time, the Denver Broncos quarterback bought 21 locations in the greater Denver area, making his way to 31 by the time he sold them in 2018. He sold days before Papa John’s relinquished their “Offical Pizza of the NFL” title. Of course, per his contract, you might still see Manning in a few of the pizza chain’s commercials.
Jimmy Buffett Made Margaritaville A Reality
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is an American restaurant chain that opened in Key West, Florida, in 1985. If you haven’t guessed it, the chain was founded by Mr. Jimmy Buffett, who named the chain after his famous song “Margaritaville.” Since the first restaurant, 27 locations have opened throughout the United States, Mexico, some islands throughout the Caribbean, Canada, and there is also one in Sydney, Australia.
Of course, cheeseburgers and yummy margaritas aren’t the only things you’ll find at Margaritaville. It is also a popular store, selling loads of various Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville apparel.
Drew Brees Bought Jimmy John’s To Relive His College Days
Founded in 1983, Jimmy John’s prides itself on being a gourmet delivery sandwich shop. As of 2018, there are 2,800 locations throughout the United States. The chain is very popular with college students, as it’s affordable, quick, and healthy (especially for college kid standards!).
Going to college at Purdue University, Saints quarterback Drew Brees frequently ordered Jimmy John’s to his dorm. But when he was drafted to the Chargers, resulting in his move to San Diego, one thing was missing: a Jimmy John’s. Then, when he was traded to the New Orlean Saints, enough was enough. His solution: buy a location and bring Jimmy John’s to New Orleans!
Hugh Jackman Owns The Laughing Man Coffee Shop
Following a 2011 trip to Ethiopia, actor Hugh Jackman founded the coffee shop chain Laughing Man Coffee, as part of the Green Mountain Keurig family. The idea came about when Jackman met a Dukale, a young coffee maker. Inspired by his work ethic and optimism, Jackman came back to the states with an idea to improve the lives of coffee makers.
With that mission in mind, Jackman donates all of the shop’s proceeds to The Laughing Man Foundation, an organization he founded to help support coffee farming communities around the world. As of 2020, there are two physical Laughing Man Coffee locations.
Toby Keith Opened The Restaurant ‘I Love This Bar & Grill’
I Love This Bar & Grill is a chain owned by country singer Toby Keith, based on his hit song “I Love this Bar.” The full-service restaurant caters to American cuisine but primarily focuses on divine southern food as a hat-tip to the owner’s southern roots.
And, of course, each location has a full-service bar that is conveniently in the shape of a guitar, Keith’s instrument of choice. Unfortunately, since 2014, multiple locations have shut down. The last closure was in Patriot Place, an open-air shopping and dining center in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
NeNe Leakes And The Airport-Only Italian Place Famous Famiglia
The airport-exclusive pizza chain Famous Famiglia is a go-to fast-food place for people on the move, rushing to get to their next flight. First opened in 1986 by the Kolaj family, the pizzeria has now become an airport staple, one that caught the attention of Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes.
In 2011, the reality star added “restaurant owner” to her resume, opening a Famous Famiglia Pizzaria in the Sacramento International Airport in California. So, if you ever find yourself running through Sacramento Airport, stop and grab a slice and think to yourself, “Thank you, NeNe, for making this happen.”
Rick Ross Loves Wingstop So Much He Bought Nine Locations
The popular American wing chain Wingstop opened its first restaurant back in 1994, with its first location in Garland, Texas. It only took four years, and a lot of 1930s and 1940s “pre-jet” aviation decor, for the popular wing spot to launch into a full-fledged franchise, going public in 2014.
One mega-star who jumped at the opportunity to own part of the popular chain is none other than hip-hop superstar Rick Ross. In 2014, Ross went ahead and bought nine southeast locations. DJ Diallo, the owner of a Brooklyn location, said, “He made Wingstop more popular.”
Danny Trejo Opened A Taco Chain Named After Himself
Building a life for himself after a rough childhood, actor Danny Trejo didn’t stop his ventures with Hollywood. Instead, he opened a taco stand in 2016 and named it after himself, Trejo’s Tacos. From the first location on La Brea Avenue in California, the taco shack expanded to four other locations throughout the great Los Angeles area.
One fun fact about the chain is that Trejo opened its first location in an abandoned Taco Bell building! It looks like that building was destined to become a taco joint of some kind.
Kenny Rogers Popularized “Healthy” Chicken
Kenny Rogers Roasters was founded back in 1991 by country singer Kenny Rogers and the former governor of Kentucky, John Y. Brown. While they are no longer a United States-based restaurant, the chain is still alive and kicking in other countries, mainly Asia. Interestingly, the restaurant chain became so popular that it gained the attention of Seinfeld creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld.
They went on to create an entire episode based around Kramer’s love for Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken. With the chain’s popularity in the ’90s, it’s strange that the chain didn’t make it in the U.S. But with the slogan, “less fat…less salt…less calories,” it kind of makes sense.
Jon Bon Jovi Opened The Non-Profit Chain JBJ Soul Kitchen
The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by singer Jon Bon Jovi back in 2006. The mission of the organization is focused on feeding the hungry and homeless in the United States. With that mission in mind, in 2011, the organization opened JBJ Soul Kitchen, a restaurant that looks to serve organic, locally grown foods.
In exchange for a “dining certificate,” the organization trains individuals to work in the food industry in hopes of helping them find employment. As Bon Jovi is a proud resident of New Jersey, all locations can be found down the shore, with one in Red Bank and the other in Toms River.
NBA Legend MJ Owns His Own Steakhouse Chain
The Michael Jordan Steakhouse chain was founded back in 1997 by former NBA superstar Michael Jordan. While the prime steakhouse is located in Grand Central Terminal in New York, there are other locations throughout the United States, including Connecticut, Washington, and, of course, Chicago.
Ironically, the chain does not use Jordan’s sports memorabilia as decor, but rather focuses on the basketball legend as a businessman. And, if you’re nowhere near one of the steakhouse locations, you’ll be happy to know that you’re able to order their steaks online, as they ship nationwide!
Phil Mickelson Is More Than Just A Fan Of Five Guys
First opened in 1986, Five Guys Burgers and Fries quickly became a popular chain. And even though they began expanding a few years after the first location opened, the chain didn’t franchise until 2003, making way for rapid expansion. As of 2006, the chain has 1,500 locations around the country.
One huge fan of the chain is professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, back in 2010, decided to purchase the rights to the Orange County, California market. Talk about being a super fan!
Magic Johnson Once Owned 105 Starbucks Locations
It might not come as a surprise, but Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the world, with 28,218 locations in 2018. Since the first coffee house opened in Seattle, Washington, back in 1971, the chain has only grown in popularity. So much so that it attracted the eye of former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson.
It all started when he met Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who talked Johnson into going 50/50 with him to open chains in Latino and black neighborhoods. The locations did remarkably well, and Johnson went on to own 105 cafes! Then, in 2010, Johnson sold all of the locations back to the company.
Hank Aaron And His Wife Bought Their First Popeye’s In 1995
In 1972, the first Popeye’s location opened in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since then, the chain expanded, becoming the second-largest quick-service chicken chain by the number of units, with 2,130 locations worldwide, since 2016. With those stats, it’s really no surprise that “Hammerin'” Hank Aaron opened his 24th Popeye’s location back in 2015.
Aaron and his wife dipped their toes into the franchise back in 1995, starting with a pair of Popeye’s restaurants. From there, the franchise grew and grew, all of them located in the greater Atlanta area.
Kanye West Brought His Love Of Fatburger To Chicago
Opening in Los Angeles, California, back in 1947, the fast-food chain Fatburger has since grown to over 200 locations around the country. Although it’s not the most popular burger chain, especially in California, it did gain the attention of one particularly famous rapper.
In 2007, Kanye West decided to take his love for the Fatburger food and bring it to his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. West’s company, KW Foods LLC, struck a deal with the chain, and together they opened 10 Fatburger’s in the Chicago area. They didn’t do so great, and as of 2011, no one really knows West’s involvement in the chain.
Michael Strahan Is A Sucker For A Burger King Whopper
Originally founded as Insta-Burger back in 1953, it only took a year for the company to be purchased and renamed to the now-famous Burger King. As of 2018, the chain operates over 17,796 locations in 100 countries. And because a majority of the franchise is privately owned, what was stopping former New York Giants defender Michael Strahan from purchasing some locations?
The former NFL star has 18 Burger King locations throughout Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia. All of his locations are predominantly in low-income areas to help increase employment opportunities.