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Ludacris — Rapper Turned Entrepreneur?

When I overheard an excited murmur about how Chris Bridges was setting up a restaurant in Atlanta, I didn’t think anything of it. Neither the name nor the act seemed worthy of much interest. A little while later the name popped up again – this time in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Apparently Chris Bridges aka, Ludacris (aha), is making his first foray into the restaurant business with plans to open three Atlanta restaurants in conjunction with Bay area restaurateur Chris Yeo, who already owns four California based restaurants.

When I overheard an excited murmur about how Chris Bridges was setting up a restaurant in Atlanta, I didn’t think anything of it. Neither the name nor the act seemed worthy of much interest. A little while later the name popped up again – this time in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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Apparently Chris Bridges aka, Ludacris (aha), is making his first foray into the restaurant business with plans to open three Atlanta restaurants in conjunction with Bay area restaurateur Chris Yeo, who already owns four California based restaurants.

The 30 year old rapper is reported to be expanding his entrepreneurial activity of late: a few months ago he paid $2.7 million for a building that formerly housed the restaurant Spice, in midtown Atlanta. He is the CEO of his own 8-year-old record label, Disturbing tha Peace Records, which has signed a number of prominent artists, including rapper Chingy.

Now this sounds terrible, but I have to admit I was taken aback at the idea that someone who I know only in context of his desire “to lick you from your head to your toes” and his overly-virile claims about having “a hoe in every area code,” could be business savvy enough to be able to delve into the real estate business and make an attempt at being a real entrepreneur.

“I don’t generally speak about it… I keep it to myself. I’m definitely into real estate. I’m a silent partner and an entrepreneur outside of music,” said Ludacris in an interview with the Chronicle.

Apparently, Ludacris isn’t the only rapper/musician who has dabbled in the restaurant business. Moby owns vegan restaurant Teany, Gladys Knight lays claim to Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, and Robert De Niro owns TriBeCa Grill in New York, Ago in L.A., and Rubicon in Sa. Youngbloodz own a Cuban restaurant at the Atlanta based Wyndham hotel, and Fat Boy Slim co-owns Greenwich Village based restaurant, the Spotted Pig.

More significant than the number of celebs who own restaurants however, are the number who have owned restaurants that have since gone under. Britney Spears’s Manhattan based Nyla, closed its glitzy shutters and filed for bankruptcy a mere six months after launch. Wesley Snipes’s Hollywood based China One, Puffy’s restaurant Justin’s, Jim McMahon’s eponymous Chicago based restaurant, and J Lo’s LA based La Boca del Conga Room, all went down, and hard.

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You have to wonder — why do so many celebrities open ventures that then close down a few months later? There can’t be any shortage of publicity surely. Is it bad food, an over-priced menu, bad service, bad management, or some combination of all?

Being a successful entrepreneur is no easy feat, particularly in the already over-crowded market that is the restaurant business. Cities like New York and LA, which seem to attract the bulk of celebrity ventures, are teeming with restaurants, and bars with food from every corner of the world.

Customers are discerning, and while celebrity bling is a great catalyst for a new venture, it isn’t enough to be the sole sustaining factor. Food in particular is a vulnerable business: the ‘designer appeal’ that often buttresses over-priced apparel, is unlikely to stand up when it comes to the hungry diner. So when it comes to the restaurant business, it’s not really that surprising that many, including celebrities, have ventures that nosedive.

With a business major from Georgia State University, some years of experience as a manager and a seasoned restaurateur to hold his hand, Ludacris is in a better position than most celebrities to try his hand in the restaurant business. How well customers warm to his entrepreneurial efforts remains to be seen.