Whether owned by athlete or actor, writer or rapper, plenty of celebrity-backed and athlete-owned restaurants go on to be, if not hits, at least moderate to decent successes. And there are occasional stars, like Robert De Niro, who, except for the occasional miss (read: the New York outpost of Ago), pretty much seem to have the restaurant business (or good luck) down pat (Locanda Verde, Nobu, and Tribeca Grill). Then there are those big names who are just outright failures at the restaurant game.
Eva Longoria is experiencing the perils of the restaurant business firsthand. Just this week it was reported that restaurant and casino operator Landry's Restaurants Inc. has stepped in to prevent the closure of the Vegas location of Beso, the Latin-inspired steakhouse she opened with Chef Todd English. The restaurant has reportedly been operating in bankruptcy since January, and was forced to close temporarily last month to save money after losing more than $76,000 per month.
Be it hubris, poor business advisors, or just the feeling of omnipotence that comes with the extension of celebrities' 15 minutes, the annals of restaurant lore are littered with celebrity-backed restaurant failures. Turns out there's a little more to creating and owning a successful restaurant than coming up with a catchy name, picking the chef, and telling him or her to put your favorite sandwich on the menu. Go figure.
You'll remember the notorious flops. Nyla, Britney Spears' New York City eatery, is one of the first restaurants mentioned anytime the subject of celebrity-backed restaurant disasters gets raised. No surprise, considering the problems, debts, and issues that accompanied Nyla during Pinky's six-month involvement with it. Others, like Steven Spielberg's Dive!, a submarine concept, are corny fails that, while epically bad, may not as readily come to mind.
So, because schadenfreude isn't really fun unless celebrity and large amounts of misdirected money are involved, here are ten great examples of why famous people who don't know as much as they think they do about food should stay out of the restaurant business.
- Arthur Bovino, The Daily Meal
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The marriage of postal abbreviations for New York and Louisiana must have seemed like a good idea. So did a popstar's restaurant in the Dylan Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. It didn't work out. Britney moved on after just six months, the menu changed from Cajun to Italian, and there were $400,000 in debts. The Queen of Pop then moved on to tackle many other personal issues. Related: 10 Celebrities' Backstage Food Demands Photo Credit: © Flickr/EUPaparazzi
It took five years for Dive! to go under. And a location in Vegas (and a franchise in Barcelona) had to open first. But eventually the restaurant -- a creation of director Steven Spielberg, owned in part by producer Jeffrey Katzenberg -- did fail. This goofy, submarine-themed restaurant served nautically-themed fare and "gourmet" subs -- Spielberg's inspiration, because, supposedly, he couldn't find anyone to make a sandwich -- in an enivronment with computer "underwater" special effects, catwalks, exposed conduits, gauges, throttles, control panels, and "dives" every half-hour where sirens and lights go off while commands of "Dive!" echo around the dining room. Related: 10 Outrageous Themed Restaurants Around the World Photo Credit: © Joel Bratman
Irving Mill was a New York phenomenon. Actors Jill Hennessy and Benjamin Bratt were investors, New York Magazine hyped its burger, and critic Gael Greene even gave it a nod. But the place didn't make it (not a surprise for a place that ran out of amuses about an hour into friends and family). Its chef, John Schaefer (Tom Colicchio's sous at Gramercy) was fired, then sued by the owners. According to the suit, Schaefer claimed he was fired without cause, and that the owners used Irving Mill for their personal accounts. Owners retaliated with a countersuit accusing Schaefer of alcoholism. Ryan Skeen took over, took his traveling culinary circus elsewhere, and elsewhere again, and now Irving Mill is Brother Jimmy's. There you are — fail. Related: The Highest-Paying Restaurant Jobs (Plus the Lowest) Photo Credit: © Morethanmary.com
''We don't want this to be the next Moomba,'' a party involved in the restaurant was quoted by The New York Times' Florence Fabricant as saying. ''Those places come and go. We're here to stay.'' Sure, buddy. Alaia was never meant to be. Despite half the Baldwin brothers' collective investing time, money, energy, and Stephen Baldwin's (left) older daughter's name into the place on Fifth Avenue at 13th Street in Manhattan, he and his brother William weren't able to make the place a hit. After opening early in 1999, they changed the name to Luahn, creating a sleek lounge with velvet chairs, then changed the name to Society 5, with Stephen ending his involvement. It shuttered not long after. Related: Celebrity Fast Food Commercials — Before They Were Famous Photo Credit: © WIkimedia Commons/Ilya Haykinson
This one's just too easy. Earlier this year, MSN noted Pastamania! as one of 14 Lowbrow Ideas That Failed (where's the complementary 14 Lowbrow Ideas that Took Off?). And why not? The restaurant, which opened Labor Day weekend in 1995 in Minnesota's Mall of America in Bloomington, was by all accounts created and financed by the Hulkster. Ads showed him decked out in yellow with a chef hat, holding a plate of spaghetti, and looking as surprised as you would be to see him doing so. Despite amazing menu options like "Hulk-A-Roos" and the Hulkster's efforts to promote Pastamania! on WCW Monday Nitro, the restaurant closed within a year. Related: The 10 Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants Photo Credit: © Flickr/Tim Kiser
Jennifer Lopez opened her Puerto Rican restaurant in Pasadena in 2002 (the Affleck period). As Eater LA reported when it closed in 2008, "With lackluster reviews but a pretty steady stream of people who wanted to taste what they thought J.Lo eats, Madre's lasted much longer than anyone, even J.Lo herself, anticipated." Despite it's fairly decent run, just as her relationships with Affleck and Marc Anthony ended, so did the restaurant also eventually fail. Related: Best and Worst Celebrity Cookbooks Photo Credit: © Flickr/Leader Nancy Pelosi
Rapper and record producer Jermaine Dupri experienced success with his record label So So Def Recordings, but his culinary effort, Café Dupri, met indifferent palates. It opened in Atlanta's overwrought Buckhead in the summer of 2005, serving "high-quality menu items that are also healthy," with dreams of franchising locations in New York, Japan, "and elsewhere." A little more than three years later, the restaurant shut down. Upscaleswagger.com quoted Dupri's mother Tina Mauldin as chalking up closing to a "business decision." When asked why workers weren't receiving checks, she replied, "Maybe if the employees had worked harder, Café Dupri would still be open." Maybe. And maybe Mr. Mauldin's Mommy shouldn't have been talking for him. Related: Bad Table Manners: Celebrity Edition Photo Credit: © Flickr/BenSpark
Fashion Café opened in New York's Rockefeller Plaza, backed by some of the '90s hottest models: Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer (left), Elle MacPhearson, and Naomi Campbell. It drew enough attention that the critic for The New York Times, Ruth Reichl, stopped by to check it out. The critic lost her appetite after waiting an hour for lunch on a Monday and being forced to see "so many skinny people in form-fitting clothes." (It would have been much more appetizing to watch fat people in sweats.) Reichl eventually found the food "surprisingly decent," but she wasn't the only one to find the theme of sex and food tired — Fashion Café closed after a few years. Related: 6 Healthy Celebrity Weddings Photo Credit: © Flickr/nicogenin
You've got to admit, 10 years is a pretty good run, and you can hardly blame the entire failure of The Clubhouse on Kevin Costner. Afterall, according to the Los Angeles Times, the restaurant's general partners included Jerry Kleiner (Marche, Red Light, Vivo), Doug Zeif (Cheesecake Factory), and investing celebrities like Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, and Robert Wagner. But after opening in 1999 in Costa Mesa, the restaurant did eventually fade out, not unlike Costner's career, until it was Related: 10 Chain Restaurants Worth Visiting Photo Credit: © Wikimedia Commons/Brennan Schnell
Fight the fried chicken. Slashfood reported it took just four months of "bounced checks and low staff retention" for Flavor-Flav's Fried Chicken to shutter. Flav claimed restaurant manager Nick Cimino wasn't "running the business right," and reports were Cimino believed Flav was "a fraud" and said he was glad to be "free of somebody like Flavor." The next rumor was that Flav was looking to open a new joint, Flav's House of Flavor, and he seemed to be on track to do so until his recent reported arrest. One can only hope everyone will find a way to survive until Flav can get his plans on track. Related: 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants Photo Credit: © WikimediaCommons/MrQuan
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