If you are into rap music, and ever wondered why Rick Ross is going on and on about Lemon Pepper Wings;
Major real estate, them Wing Stops must be doin’ nice / Trappin’ lemon pepper, got me movin’ two a nightRick Ross
or Kanye West about McDonalds;
McDonald’s, damn, Them french fries look good tho, I knew the Diet Coke was jealous of the friesKanye West
Then this piece finally has some answers for you! Even if you are not into rap music, this piece has some great learning about the power of influencer marketing and how leveraging it can propel your business.
When Kanye West dropped a line about Chipotle in one of his songs (Song: That Part with rapper Schoolboy Q), Chipotle experienced some of the best social media marketing without shelling out a penny for this promotion (or did they 😉 ). That is the kind of influence the rappers and their songs have had on the restaurant businesses. Curious for more?
In this piece, we learn about some of the rappers and their stakes in the restaurant business. As is the norm in the food business, the rapper’s involvement goes beyond just the simple monetary investment and gains. For some, it is to support their community; for others, it is to buy gifts for their wife. For Rick Ross, it is simply because they love chicken wings and money?
No matter the incentives, these rappers take their businesses seriously when they invest their hip-hop dollars into it and know how to leverage their strengths to boost their business portfolios.
Here are some of our favorite rappers who are into the restaurant business and some insights into their culinary contributions.
Table of Contents
The Origin of chicken and Waffles
Long ago, almost one-hundred years ago, in the 1920s, a Jazz musician in Harlem, New York, finished his work late at night and headed to an open kitchen to get some food. He found himself in a very tough predicament – should he eat dinner, or should he eat breakfast?
The chef in the kitchen helped him out, he took some leftover fried chicken (as dinner) and whipped up some waffles (as breakfast) and then and there gave birth to a new dish: chicken and Waffles.
Nas and Sweet Chick
Back to the present, we all associate the chicken and waffles to the South, but it’s origin, as you just learned, can be traced back to New York. Focusing on this dish and trying to serve rustic food in New York is John Seymour.
His restaurant Sweet Chick serves American comfort food, imagine Mac and Cheese, Biscuits and Gravy, Chicken and Waffles, to name only the top favorites. In 2015, Seymour partnered with Nas OG, and the duo aimed to bring Sweet Chick to the national map.
Sweet Chick Expansion
You will know Nas for his iconic hip hop album in the 90s or from all the news about his beef with Jay-Z. Nas having a strong association with New York and a reputation worldwide, seemed like a perfect fit for Sweet Chick.
Nas and Seymour since then have opened up branches in Manhattan, Queens, Los Angeles, and new units in development. Nas’ contribution is not just limited to the business, but also with a branch in Queens (where he grew up), he is also working on promoting entrepreneurship in the area to support young people in his neighborhood.
Nas was a great addition to the business, it helped the restaurant get on the celebrity radar, there were multiple pop-up performances from big names like Mobb Deep or Joey Bada$$, and he helped to strengthen the brand identity with his music and neighborhood association.
Nas shows us how humble it is to stick to your roots even when you become a worldwide sensation.
A Burger Rapper
Celebrities are often thought of as superior beings, no longer human-like. Kanye failures, success, and a new obsession with buying ranches make this ‘College Dropout’ a fascinating restaurateur.
Known by the internet world for his love of McDonald’s, it’s not surprising he makes some money from the burger life:
The Kardashian family are business masterminds, and their better-halves are no less (aka Kanye). While we all know about Kanye’s mark on the fashion industry with his Adidas Yeezy products and have seen videos of his Sunday Service choirs, he also has a strong inclination for fast food. Strangely enough (as one would expect in the Kardashian house), even though he is often seen praising McDonald’s and penning poems about it, he owns no franchise or stake in the chain.
The fast-food chain that he does own is Fatburger bistros in Chicago through his company KW Foods LLC. He has several branches of the chain in the city.
Burger King Makes the Best Presents
In 2014, Kanye West also bought the rights to open ten burger king stores around Europe. This was a gift for this then-fiancee Kim Kardashian when they were getting married. Even though they had the rights to open up these branches, none of them actually materialized. Though known for their outlandish gifts, I guess this should not come as a surprise.
Interestingly you would expect a billionaire to have a keen interest in fine dining and the elitist of the elite restaurants. Still, Kanye is very content with his burger and burritos chains. When it comes to fast food, he shows us that we can all enjoy a quality burger for $10 and don’t always need three Michelin stars.
Who Is Charlie Morrison and Why It Matters
Even if you are well versed in the quick-service industry, Charlie Morrison is not the name you must have discussed or come across a lot. Morisson is the low-key CEO of the chain Wingstop, and his success is far from low-key.
He took the Wingstop company public in 2015, and currently, they have about 1200 locations in the US, out of which only about 30 are company-owned. The chain has seen fantastic success in the past few years and was one of the shining lights during the COVID pandemic of 2020. Excluding those 30 company stores, the rest are franchised.
A Wingstop Super Fan
One of the most famous franchise owners of this high-growth chain Wingstop is a high-profile rapper – Rick Ross. The chain’s association with Rick Ross helps the brand be “cool.” Rick Ross has a strong connection with the target audience of the chain – the young and millennial crowd.
Further, he does not shy away from promoting the brand. From often dropping lines about the chicken wings from Wingstop in his songs to casually holding Wingstop cup in his hand in public to dining there frequently, Rick Ross’ encouragement for the brand is vivid and explicit.
Rick Ross’ Wing Story
Rick Ross’ story with Wingstop is simple. He loved the chicken wings from the chain, and long dreamt of opening a franchisee of his own every time he visited the restaurant. Ross finally had the resources and, in 2011, opened his first outlet near Memphis.
While Ross stands out in marketing and sales owing to his celebrity status, a visit to one of his outlets is as humble as any other Wingstop outlets. No fancy fares, just the simple lemon-pepper chicken wings that he gleefully raps about all the time.
Ross often talks about opening more franchises (it is thought that he owns 25), and you will feel his love for the chain and the food in any of his interviews or discussion about Wingstop. He shows us that you have to have a passion and interest to promote something successfully. Most importantly, you have to have a vested interest in it.
For those that care about the numbers, like me, we all want to know how much is Rick Ross making? With the estimated 25 units we think he wholly owns, margins of roughly 15% on an average of $1,200,000 in sales, each unit pulls in approximately $180,000 before management expenses.
Let’s assume an operation team to run the 25 units costs each unit roughly $40,000.
So each unit nets Ross roughly $140,000 each or $3,500,000 annually across the 25 units.
This estimate does not take into account how he likely leverages into each store and does not see any real cash flow for 4+ years. Either way, Rick Ross will be quite Wing Rich in the coming years.
A Restaurant Meme?
DJ Khaled is known for many things, as a hip-hop artist, as a producer, and of course, as a living marketing meme. After reading this, you can also add a restaurateur and a community person to his description.
In 2015, Khaled opened his first restaurant, The Licking, in Miami (his hometown). The idea behind this was to cater to the underserved African American community. Since then, he went on to open six more chains including in Miami, Austin, and Chicago.
For each of his restaurants, the intent remained the same. Along with bringing something new to the food scene in the neighborhood, he wants to provide development to the area, provide jobs to the locals, and provide a quality eating spot to the community near their homes.
The restaurant serves Miami styled items, think fried lobsters, Tilapia, Green Collards, to name some of the top ones.
It is also known for its Mystery Drink, which every visitor says is a must-try.
Elric Prince, the Music Mogul
But behind this celebrity-endorsed chain is another founder, Elric Prince (founder of Poe Boy Records). Prince was the one who discovered chef, Tasha Colton. Colton catered for Prince’s group, and then eventually went on with him and opened one of the first flagship locations of The Licking in 2014.
The brand then licensed locations to partners, and that is when Khaled got on the board and opened in 2015 the next Miami branch and, of course, in his candor walked down the red carpet and made the restaurant a hot spot.
Khaled instills in us the will to think about the communities around us when trying to build our empires.
If there is a restaurant that is in sync with the personality of a rapper, it is the Escobar Restaurant & tapas in Atlanta. Blue sparkly walls, Pablo Escobar illustrations, Sheeshas, quirky uniforms, gold Mercedes Benz arena that doubles as the DJ booth – the whole ambiance screams funky.
The main chef, Stefan Robinson, previously worked with Queen Latifah and Gabrielle Union, fits just fine in this celebrity restaurant. And so does the co-owner. 2 Chainz owns this place with his partner Dillard, who already has experience in the culinary world as she owns The Hookah Hideaway, Skinny’s Hot Kitchen and Posh Macon.
Located at a very upscale location, with a celebrity team, sparkly ambiance, the restaurant wants to cater to the elite. If you are a 2 Chainz fan and follow him, you can already imagine that the experience there is nothing ordinary.
One Toe In
Compared to his restaurant rapping peers, he has only scratched the surface of building his restaurant empire. Will 2 Chainz expand his restaurant empire? Only time will tell, but we will definitely by watching his restaurant journey from afar.
A Hospitality Business-Man
Jay Z is no stranger to the hospitality business. Owning the champagne brand, Armand De Brignac (worth $310 million) and the cognac brand, D’Usse (worth $100 million), in a joint venture with Bacardi, is just his splash in the food world.
The artist, Grammy winner, producer, record label owner (Music Catalog), entertainment company businessman (Roc Nation), art collector (worth $70 million), real estate mogul, and the list goes on, also owns several clubs (40/40 Club) and restaurants.
Jay-Z’s club origins show us that these celebrities do not have instant hospitality success either and need to work hard to keep it moving. Back in 2003, when Jay-Z just opened the original 40/40 club in New York, it was the place for celebs to host parties and hang out.
Then the charm faded and the attendance in the club declined to the extent of alarming financial losses.
His co-owner Juan Perez and Jay put in another significant investment to renovate the club and come up with a new longer-term strategy. Fast forward to today, the club has already expanded to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Brooklyn and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon (though the Atlantic City and Las Vegas locations have closed).
A Failed Mixtape and a Spotty ‘The Spotted Pig’
Jay-Z also owns a restaurant called Mixtape with a serial restaurateur Jeremy Falls. Cocktails in this restaurant come with a right to add one song to that night’s playlist, kind of like a free spin to the jukebox, but of course innovative and modern, aka, Jay-Z style. This restaurant looks to have closed during the COVID pandemic of 2020.
Jay also was a minority stakeholder in The Spotted Pig in NYC, and the owner of the building it was housed. The Spotted Pig closed in the early part of 2020 and previously had settled a sexual misconduct lawsuit, Jay-Z still owns the building at the time of this writing.
Jay-Z’s New Restaurant Ventures
Perhaps this means he is diving back into the NYC restaurant scene? We shall see.
Jay Z surely knows how to inspire us and conveys to us that if you dream it, you can indeed be a master of all trades who overcomes all types of challenges.
Rapping It Up!
What a great list of rappers, and it did not cover all of them that are in the restaurant industry. The key takeaway is that even with star-studded launches and significant portfolios, getting into and profiting from the restaurant industry can be challenging.
In addition to the above ones, more celebs like Drake and Ludacris have their shares in the restaurant business. No one doubts their musical talents or lyrical geniuses, some of them still have a thing or two to learn about profiting in the restaurant business, just like the rest of us.
It is fascinating and inspiring to see that they don’t just rest on their musical talents, and each one has a different restaurant story to share with their diners.