Monday, May 16, 2011

Celebrities Serving Up Fast Food

Advertising Age: Venus Williams and Jamba Juice announced in April an agreement to build five Jamba Juice stores in the Washington and Maryland marketplace, slated to open later this summer. But it turns out that celebrity franchisees are nothing new. Here's a look at a few notable chain/celebrity franchisee relationships.

Singer Jimmy Buffett became a franchisee in 2000 when he got the rights to build Krispy Kreme outlets in Palm Beach County in Florida. The move was part of a previously stated effort by the company to nearly double its number of locations by 2005. Mr. Buffett also owns his own slew of restaurants and cafés under the Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise monikers.

In late 2002, Krispy Kreme announced it was expanding into the U.K. -- its second venture outside the U.S. after a foray into Australia and New Zealand earlier that year. One of the investors? Dick Clark, who, along with his business partners, was granted the right to open 25 Krispy Kreme locations in the U.K. Mr. Clark also has a stake in a chain of music-themed restaurants called Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill in Chandler, Ariz.; Salt Lake City; Cranbury, N.J.; Branson, Mo.; and Phoenix.

Somehow New England Patriots runningback Kevin Faulk found time to become a Burger King franchisee. In 2007, Mr. Faulk and four other current and former professional African-American athletes -- New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Caron Butler of the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards, Donnie Edwards of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen -- joined forces to buy 18 Burger King restaurants in Norfolk and Richmond, Va.

The move represented an attempt by Miami-based Burger King to grow its presence in urban areas. Mr. Faulk has said he was enticed by the fact that the locations were in predominantly black neighborhoods, as it provided employment potential for area residents.

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron is a franchisee of three different chains under his 755 Restaurant Corp. in Atlanta -- named so for the record-breaking number of home runs he hit throughout his career. Through 755, Mr. Aaron owns 20 Popeyes, five Church's Chicken and two Krispy Kreme units.

Hip-hop wonder, fashion trendsetter and megalomaniac Kanye West in 2008 struck out to bring West Coast Chain Fatburger to his hometown of Chicago. Through his company KW Foods, he got the rights to open 10 Fatburgers in the metro area. Sadly, one location in Suburban Orland Park closed in January because of underperforming finances.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson has several restaurant ventures through his company Magic Johnson Enterprises. He owns a handful of AMC Theaters, and in 2004 struck a deal with Burger King to buy some 30 restaurants in the southeastern U.S. He also made a deal in 1998 with Carlson Restaurants Worldwide to open a Magic Johnson's TGI Friday's restaurant in Ladera, California. In 1998, MJE and Starbucks Coffee Co. inked a 50/50 partnership to build Starbucks stores in underserved neighborhoods to create economic opportunity in the areas they served. But in October, a day after he sold his interest in the Lakers, Mr. Johnson divested his interest in his 100-plus Starbucks.

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