Bring on the star power: Celebrity-backed restaurant openings are soaring

Restaurant openings are on the rise. And one segment that’s especially active? Celebrity-backed eateries.

JLL in a May research brief reported that 361 celebrity restaurants have opened in the United States and Canada from 2019 through 2024. The roster of celebrities backing these restaurants includes celebrity chefs, actors and musicians.

The year 2021 was an especially busy time for celebrity-backed restaurants. JLL says that celebrity restaurant openings doubled from 2020 to 2021. This happened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time in which overall U.S. restaurant openings only jumped by 13%.

Another interesting tidbit? Chefs and actors opened 67% of the celebrity restaurants during the last five years in Canada and the United States. JLl reported that 37% of celebrity restaurant openings were powered by high-profile chefs and 32% by actors.

Don’t expect the pace of celebrity restaurant openings to slow, either. JLL reported that there were 1,832 new U.S.-planned restaurant openings announced in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

In this competitive atmosphere, attracting investors, appealing to landlords and connecting with customers is a challenge, JLL said. Celebrity-backed restaurants can help bring loyal fans to a new restaurant.

What celebrity-backed restaurants have opened recently? Houston rapper Bun B opened Trill Burgers, a restaurant specializing in upscale hamburgers. Former NFL quarterback invests in Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux and Smalls Sliders.

Comedians Pete Davidson and Jason Sudeikis, musician Mark Bronson and actors Nicholas Braun and Justin Theroux are all investors in New York City’s Pebble Bar. Kris Jenner signed on as an investor in Health Nut, a healthy-foods chain that is looking to expand beyond its Southern California base.

There’s also Kevin Hart’s Hart House, LeBron James’ Blaze Pizza franchise, rapper Drake’s Dave’s Hot Chicken franchise and Priyanka Chopra’s SONA.