What FRANdata Thinks

Star Power: Reality TV Stars and Celebrities Dig into Franchising

November 22nd, 2019 by Ritwik Donde

It’s not a big secret that many TV celebrities venture into the business world at the top of their profession and limelight. Many TV stars have attempted to start their own businesses and brands. But in recent times, an increasing number of reality TV stars are turning to franchising to build their brand-power and to rapidly grow their empire leveraging franchising’s asset-light model.

These celebrities are not going at it alone, they are partnering with industry veterans with extensive franchise experience to further their business goals. For example, earlier in November, Guy Fieri, the Emmy-nominated celebrity chef known for his show “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” and other Food Network shows, launched his own franchise venture dubbed Chicken Guy[1]. In order to franchise his brand, he partnered with Robert Earl, founder of Earl of Sandwich brand, and brought on board the former development head of MOD Pizza and Qdoba, to lead the franchise development initiative. And Fieri is not alone, in May this year, star of popular reality TV show Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer, launched his own franchise concept: Taffer’s Tavern. He partnered with Fransmart, a franchise development company behind the fast growth brands like The Halal Guys, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, and QDOBA Mexican Grill.[2] These TV stars are leveraging their celebrity status to fuel franchise growth. Taffer’s franchise concept has already signed several multi-unit deals, like the one he has with Five Guys Taverns, a franchisee of fast-casual Indian concept Curry Up Now.[3]

Even former athletes, movie stars and music moguls are getting in on this action. For example, Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, founded Wahlburgers, a burger franchise, that two years ago signed agreements with five franchise groups to open 30 new restaurants in seven states. It also has a location in Toronto, Canada. Cuban American rapper Pitbull has an equity in Miami Subs Grill which has locations across South Florida and other parts of the United States. Former professional basketball player Magic Johnson, through Johnson Development Corporation, was one of the owners of the parent company for Fatburger.[4]

Celebrity-backed franchises are not just rising fast in the food space. Service industry also has seen a similar trend. In 2014, Cory Chalmers, the star of the reality TV show “Hoarders” launched her own franchise, Steri-Clean. They now have more than 20 franchised locations.[5] Even international TV celebrities are looking at the massive potential in the U.S. franchise marketplace. Take for instance, Scandinavian TV personality Inger Ellen Nicolaisen, who is known for her hit television series, The Candidate, one of the European versions of The Apprentice. After building Nikita Hair, one of Europe’s leading salon chains, into a household name, she is focusing on growing her franchise brand in the United States.

Celebrities are not new to franchising. A lot of celebs operate as franchisees of many well-known brands. Baseball great Hank Aaron has launched over 20 Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken in Georgia. NFL quarterback Drew Brees is a Jimmy John’s franchisee and Michael Strahan is a Burger King franchise owner. But the new thing now is that they are leveraging their star power to fuel their business goals further by “acting” as franchisors.


Read previous posts in the FRANalyst Fridays series here.


[1] Franchise Times

[2] Restaurant News

[3] Franchising.com

[4] Wikipedia

[5] Denver Business Journal

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