I remember back in the early 1990’s going to Planet Hollywood in London’s Leicester Square, being excited because of the link to some of Hollywood’s biggest names of the time. When Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger famously endorsed and backed this new restaurant concept that would compete with Hard Rock and TGI’s there was a real buzz through the hospitality industry. The walls of the restaurant were adorned with real Hollywood memorabilia and there was always that possibility of perhaps seeing someone famous! From memory, although the experience was one I still remember, the food was slightly underwhelming.
Other actors signed on to promote the restaurant chain which enjoyed rapid expansion throughout the world before declaring bankruptcy in 1999. Obviously Planet Hollywood is not unique in this market of restaurants backed by movie stars or sports stars. Other restaurant chains soon followed in the ‘90’s including Fashion Café backed by Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, but with little success and eventually closure. So what is it that entices fabulously wealthy celebrities to invest in the incredibly risky business of restaurants?
The restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to make money from and there are many high profile people who have dabbled and failed very quickly – Brittney Spears, J.Lo and Chrissy Hinde to name a few. Staffing issues, long working hours, skills shortages and general poor management all lead to a high percentage of restaurants failing. But it seems that everywhere you turn there is a new restaurant opening with a famous name attached to it. One theory is that celebrities are so used to eating out that they become very comfortable in the surroundings of the hospitality industry and think that they can do this themselves.
After all a good restaurant will make it look easy – the reality is very different! Another reason is that movie stars and sports personalities have a very high degree of disposable income and are coaxed into various investments during their careers. And there is something very romantic and glamorous about owning your own restaurant. But unless you have a working knowledge of the restaurant industry it is difficult to understand where your money may be going and why you are suddenly faced with a pile of debt and, in some cases, court cases for food hygiene violations or money mismanagement.
Some celebrities make wise investments on the basis that they can improve their own profile and when they link that with something that they are passionate about themselves they are at the start of creating a brand. Take David and Victoria Beckham for example, both successful in their own right as a pop star and international footballer, but when they started branching out into other fields such as fashion they soon became household names around the World. For a restaurant chain the marketing opportunities of having a celebrity backer are enormous.
In these days of social media, the potential client reach for a restaurant is huge. Successful celebrity restaurateurs include Robert De Niro, Jimmy Buffett, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Redford. Recently Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton has opened a vegan burger chain.
Neat Burger has launched in Mayfair, London with the backing of Lewis Hamilton, a confirmed vegan himself. The concept is very simple in that they are offering a traditional burger menu but with only plant based products. They have a tie-in with the US based company Beyond Meat and have developed recipes that will be unique to Neat Burger.
During 2021 Neat Burger has some grand expansion plans for the UK, Europe and into America. At present with worldwide Covid restrictions still in place these expansion plans may be put on hold and Neat Burger, like the rest of us, will have to hope that they have sufficient funds to last out the crisis. Time will tell if Lewis has made a wise investment but certainly at the moment his profile around the World is huge and it will continue to grow with his other investments.
Many sports stars have such short careers that they need to look to the future and keep their profile high whilst still competing at international level. One thing is for sure, however, there is always a buzz in the hospitality industry and amongst customers when a super star opens another restaurant – long may it continue!