Whether owned by athlete or actor, writer or rapper, plenty of celebrity-backed and athlete-owned restaurants go on to be at least moderate to decent successes, if not out-and-out hits. And there are occasional stars, like Robert De Niro, who pretty much seem to have the restaurant business down pat (see Locanda Verde, Nobu, and Tribeca Grill). But more restaurants fail than succeed, and a celebrity’s name doesn’t guarantee a restaurant’s success.
Be it hubris, poor business advisors, or just the power trip that comes with fame, the restaurant graveyard is littered with failed celebrity-backed ventures. Apparently, 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 Spears’ six-month involvement with it. Others, like Steven Spielberg's Dive!, a submarine concept, are corny fails that, while epically bad, may not be as oft-cited.
So, because schadenfreude isn't really fun unless celebrity and large amounts of misdirected money are involved, here are 16 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.
Britney Spears: Nyla, New York City
Photo Modified: Wikimedia Commons / Glenn Francis / CC BY-SA 4.0
The marriage of postal abbreviations for New York and Louisiana must have seemed like a good idea. So did a pop star opening a 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 the business had incurred $400,000 in debts. The ex-teen queen then moved on to tackle many other personal issues.
Steven Spielberg: Dive!, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Barcelona
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 nautical-themed fare and "gourmet" subs — Spielberg's inspiration, because, supposedly, he couldn't find anyone to make a sandwich the way he liked it — in an environment with computer-generated "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!" echoed around the dining room.
Additional reporting by Arthur Bovino.