30 Undercooked Celebrity Restaurant Ventures
Studies show that roughly one in four restaurants fail within their first year of business, and an additional one in five don’t make it to their second anniversary. Apart from the name recognition factor, celebrities don’t have it much easier when trying to launch a new restaurant. Here are 30 celebrity-owned restaurants that ultimately didn’t make the cut.
Back in 1995, inspired by the early success of Planet Hollywood, supermodels Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington pooled their money to invest in Fashion Café, a theme restaurant that opened in New York City’s Rockefeller Center to great fanfare.
When Jennifer Lopez opened a Latin-themed restaurant in Pasadena in 2002, the Los Angeles Times said Madre’s served "the worst Cuban food in Southern California," describing several dishes as "close to inedible." That didn’t seem to deter J. Lo’s fans, though, who kept the restaurant packed.
Dreamworks wasn’t the only collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg in the mid-1990s. The Hollywood moguls also launched Dive!, a restaurant so committed to its nautical motif that the building was a giant yellow submarine grafted onto the side of the Century City shopping mall — at a cost of $7 million.
In 2002, at the height of her fame, Britney Spears opened Nyla, a midtown Manhattan restaurant where the menu originally had a Cajun flair, reflecting the pop star’s Louisiana roots. It only took a few months, though, for the menu to undergo a complete rewrite, switching to an Italian theme.
D. Wade’s Sports Grills
Looking for opportunities to make more money in the off-season, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade agreed to become a partner in D. Wade’s Sports Grills in 2007. The deal rapidly deteriorated and the handful of restaurants that opened were quickly shut down. Wade’s business partners sued him for breach of contract — he settled with them a few years later.
Saybrook Fish House
Former NBA superstar Vin Baker grew up in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and as his playing career wound down, he looked back to his hometown, investing millions in a seafood restaurant that had been there for years. But the Saybrook Fish House became a financial black hole, contributing to the loss of his $100 million fortune. (Baker would later sue his financial advisers for mismanagement.)
New Yorkers were excited when Questlove opened a gourmet fried chicken stand in the spring of 2013. But the name, Hybird, was slightly confusing — a few press reports inadvertently "corrected" the spelling to Hybrid.
Flav’s Fried Chicken
Before becoming co-frontman of Public Enemy, Flavor Flav was a cooking school graduate, and over the years he’d developed his own blend of seasoning for fried chicken. At some point, he started selling his wings at Mama Cimino’s in Las Vegas — and then Nick Cimino, the owner’s brother, invited Flav to open his own restaurant in Clinton, Iowa.
Siro’s was a dining institution near the racetrack in Saratoga, New York, and had been since opening back in 1945. It made sense for Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera to invest in bringing the restaurant to Manhattan in 2012, taking over a location where Ruth’s Chris had flopped.
Eva Longoria was at the height of her Desperate Housewives fame when she opened Beso on Hollywood Boulevard in 2008. With Todd English helping to run the kitchen, the place soon became a hit. The Los Angeles Times had mixed feelings about the swanky supper club, but admitted it had "possibly the best paella in town."
SHe by Morton’s
Beso wasn’t Eva Longoria’s only attempt to make it in the restaurant business. In 2013, she partnered with Morton’s, the steakhouse chain, to open SHe at the same Las Vegas location where she’d tried to make Beso work before. The gimmick was simple — different sized portions of steak for men and women, with the ladies getting the smaller cuts.
Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar
From the moment it opened in Times Square in the fall of 2012, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar was the restaurant that food critics loved to hate, earning an infamous ZERO-star review from The New York Times. Soon after, Bobby Moynihan started poking fun at Guy Fieri on Saturday Night Live — and even Fieri eventually conceded that the jokes at his expense were brilliant.
Gordon Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the world — and one of his most popular TV shows is based on the premise that he can come in and turn failing restaurants around in a single weekend. It’s not always that easy in real life.
Jamie Oliver is another celebrity chef who’s faced major setbacks to his business. In 2018, he was forced to close down some of his restaurants, including Barbecoa, an upscale London steakhouse, along with several branches of the Jamie’s Italian chain.
Ludacris is actually a celebrity restaurant success. Yes, he opened an Asian fusion restaurant in Atlanta called Straits in 2008 that closed four years later, but that’s only because the rap star found a better opportunity.
It’s not really fair to describe Justin’s, the restaurant that Sean Combs named after his son, as a flop. After all, the original Justin’s in Manhattan lasted 10 years and the Atlanta location stayed open for 14. Ultimately, according to a statement released to the press, Combs simply decided to focus on "other business ventures in music, television, fashion, fragrance and spirits."
Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of The Pretenders, is a vegan from Akron, Ohio. So, in 2007, she decided to open a vegan restaurant in Akron. VegiTerranean offered up artichoke appetizers and fake meat entrées one local reviewer described as "all chunks and shreds of strange texture bonded together." But, despite its appearance, the food was pretty good!
Rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri opened Café Dupri in Atlanta during the summer of 2005. The menu showcased healthy spins on southern cuisine, including the dish titled Tomatoes Dupri, which featured fried green tomatoes and blackened catfish.
Ashton Kutcher’s almost as famous for his investment strategies as he is for his acting career. As the head of the Dolce Restaurants and Entertainment Group, he’s made several forays into the food business, starting with Dolce, an Italian joint in the heart of Hollywood that had additional backing from co-star Wilmer Valderrama.
A decade after starring together in "Law & Order," Jill Hennessey and Benjamin Bratt became co-investors in Irving Mill in 2007. The restaurant should have been a hit with its prime Manhattan location on Union Square and burgers that got rave reviews.
Scott Disick, aka Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend, tried to open a Japanese restaurant in the Meatpacking District, one of the most fashionable sectors of Manhattan, in 2012. You might remember this, because apparently it was a plot line in an early season of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."
Kevin Costner is another example of how it’s not always fair to call a celebrity restaurant a flop. He went in with golfers Jack Nicklaus and Fred Couples to open The Clubhouse, a country club-themed eatery that made its 1997 debut in Chicago and then opened additional locations in California and Georgia.
Alaia and Luahn
When Stephen and Billy Baldwin opened a Manhattan restaurant called Alaia in 1999, the New York Post dismissed it as a "B-list bomb." Other critics gave the menu high marks, but that didn’t keep the place from closing down the following spring.
Danielle Staub, who initially rose to fame on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, was one of seven contestants on VH1’s "Famous Food," a 2011 show where minor celebs worked in a new restaurant, competing for a stake in its ownership. (The restaurant, Lemon Basket, was located at the former site of Ashton Kutcher’s Ketchup; his Dolce Group was a co-investor.)
Jim McMahon, the quarterback who took the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, agreed to become a partner in McMahon’s Steakhouse, a massive, 400-seat restaurant decorated to celebrate his career. But it closed a year later, and McMahon ended up suing his partner for breach of contract, settling in 2006.
Lohan Beach House
If you were flipping through the channels a few months back, you might have noticed Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club, which was set at the former pop star’s nightclub on the Greek island of Mykonos. The show didn’t last, and neither did Lohan Beach House.
Kenny Rogers Roasters
On paper, Kenny Rogers Roasters was a solid concept for a fast-food chain. It had one of the biggest names in country music up front, and the former CEO of KFC running the business side of things. All went well for a while after the company launched in 1991. At its peak, there were more than 350 outlets, mostly in the United States — including, as you may know from that one episode of Seinfeld, Manhattan.
Of all the celebrity restaurant ventures we’re looking at here, the oddest is undoubtedly Woody Harrelson’s O2. You can’t even call it a restaurant, really — it was an oxygen bar, located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.
When Hulk Hogan opened his Pastamania restaurant at the Mall of America in 1995, several of his wrestling colleagues came out for the opening ceremony — and he did his best to keep the hype going every week on the WCW wrestling show. But very few people were willing to make a special trip to the Twin Cities for mediocre pasta — even the locals couldn’t be bothered.
Remember America’s Next Great Restaurant, the NBC series from 2011 where contestants pitched an all-star jury (including Bobby Flay) their restaurant ideas? Jamawn Woods beat out the competition with Soul Daddy, which started out as a quick, casual spin on chicken and waffles and evolved into a more intricate, healthy soul food menu.