Interviews

Celebrities who have taken on real-life roles as hospitality entrepreneurs

11 min read

13 July 2017

Former deputy editor

With enough money to have a taste for the finer things in life, countless celebrities have been keen to share their passion for wining and dining as hospitality entrepreneurs.

Celebrity hospitality entrepreneurs

Robert De Niro is arguably one of the most prominent celebrity hospitality entrepreneurs, and the UK has been a destination of focus for him over the past year.

As co-founder of the Nobu restaurant and hotel chain, the Goodfellas actor’s Nobu Shoreditch Hotel opened on Saturday 1 July, with further global growth on the horizon.

And last summer, De Niro secured approval to open a Covent Garden-based boutique hotel called The Wellington, a sort of sister to his Greenwich Hotel in New York.

He’s not alone in this world of A-list hospitality entrepreneurs. We’ve rounded up details on the stars that spend time catering to consumers when they’re not singing and acting their hearts out.


Ashton Kutcher

It’s well known that Ashton Kutcher is a keen tech investor. In fact, Real Business sat in his presence at the Sage Summit in Chicago, during which time he spoke of his transition from TV and film to business.

His time producing TV shows in his twenties made him aware that digital media speeds were getting faster, which piqued his interest and lead him into tech.

“I started investing in various companies and learning by failing – a lot,” he said. And learning by sitting in rooms where I was the dumbest person and keeping my mouth shut, listening, and asking as many questions as I could.”

Outside of tech though, Kutcher has tossed his hat into the hospitality entrepreneurs ring, trying his luck as a restaurant owner. In partnership with his co-stars from That 70s Show, making a truly celebrity affair, Kutcher launched the Dolce Group of restaurants.

It comprised a few restaurants, inclusive of Italian-based namesake Dolce Enoteca in LA, which is now closed. And prior to the closure of Geisha House in 2013, the Japanese-themed bar and restaurant had its doors open for nine years, while American style diner Ketchup also shuttered.

It’s unclear what caused the decision to call it quits with the venues, some of which had opened in Washington DC and Riyadh, but a quick look at the Dolce Group website and seemingly the business no longer exists at all.

While Kutcher appears to have left the restaurant business behind, we’ve found one fellow actor whose eatery has been going for 13 years – even though it made him “broke” when he opened it.

Ryan Gosling

In a similar way that Robert De Niro found himself attracted to the food that led to the launch of Nobu, Ryan Gosling seems to have had a serendipitous outcome for his journey into the world of hospitality entrepreneurs.

The La La Land star is the co-founder of Tagine, a Beverly Hills-set restaurant that dishes up Moroccan cuisine. Although Gosling has admitted he bought the venue on a spur of the moment, it has longevity and has been running since 2004.

Ryan Gosling Tagine hospitality entrepreneurs

Gosling with his Tagine co-founders

But 13 years ago, Gosling was still on the rise, however, that didn’t stop him from setting up Tagine alongside chef and co-owner Ben Benameur and Benameur’s former co-worker Chris Angulo.

Having whipped up Moroccan delights for Gosling and Angulo that his grandmother made for him in his youth, Benameur instantly had two new fans.

According to the Tagine website: ‘They had never had anything like it before. Ryan told Ben it was ‘the food I want to eat for the rest of my life!’ The only problem was that there wasn’t a place in L.A. where they served food like that, not like Ben’s.  The three decided to change that and they opened Tagine in 2004.”

Ryan Gosling Tagine hospitality entrepreneurs

Inside the Beverly Hills hotspot

In an interview six years ago, Gosling said of the decision: “I bought it a few years ago on a whim. I was broke afterwards and had to do all the renovations by myself. Just alone to lay pipes took me half a year. In the meantime everything is done and I help as a waiter from time to time.”

The star is anything but broke today, boasting a $30m net worth thanks to his soaring film career.

From restaurants to hotels, on the next page we look at the 500-acre Australian patch of land owned by an on-screen hero.

Hugh Jackman

Next on the list of celebrity hospitality entrepreneurs is on-screen superhero Hugh Jackman, who has starred in the X-Men franchise as Wolverine since 2000, until this year when he hung up his claws for good.

Not that he’ll face a shortage of new opportunities coming his way, of course, but should he fancy quitting the big screen for a life as a hotelier, the foundation is already in place.

Hugh Jackman Gwinganna hospitality entrepreneurs

A special VIP house for Jackman and his friends is reportedly on the resort

Jackman is a co-owner of the Queensland-based Gwinganna Health Retreat in his native Australia, which is billed as a “wellness destination to soothe your soul and inspire you to live a healthier life”.

Spread across 500 acres and situated in between ocean and valley, it’s easy to see why a hot property like Jackman would be attracted to somewhere that will offer serenity away from the hustle and bustle of Tinseltown.

Leaving a testimonial for his site, Jackman said: “The Spa Sanctuary at Gwinganna is quite simply world class.

“One feels simultaneously immersed in nature and indulgent luxury. The staff at the sanctuary is extraordinary, their expertise and passion is unparalleled. Enjoy.”

Hugh Jackman Gwinganna hospitality entrepreneurs 2

It’s not uncommon for celebrities to be found at the venue

Apparently, Jackman isn’t the only A-lister walking the halls and fields, but status doesn’t matter at Gwinganna.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you come from — when you’re running around on the mountain everybody sweats,” declared GM Sharon Kolkka.

Having said that, the venue does come complete with a $4.25m VIP house for Jackman, which he and fellow Australian actor friends including Joel Egerton and Nicole Kidman are said to have access to.

On the next page, find out which Harry Potter star’s hotel earnings were anything but magical.

Rupert Grint

Elsewhere on the rundown of hospitality entrepreneurs, we have Rupert Grint. He needn’t work another day in his life thanks to his time as young wizard Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise, of course, boasting a net worth of $50m.

Rupert Grint ice cream hospitality entrepreneurs

Grint achieved a childhood dream with the purchase of an ice cream van

But, seemingly drawn to the lifestyle of hospitality entrepreneurs, Grint has given two ventures a go.

First off, there’s his now famous ownership of an ice cream van, in which he has been known to dispense free cold treats.

“My first ambition was to become an ice-cream man, which is why I bought the Bedford van. Not long after I first got it, I pulled into a pub to do a U-turn and there were eight kids with their pocket money out, hoping to buy a 99 or whatever. But I had nothing to give them. I’ve learnt my lesson since then,” Grint recalled.

Rupert Grint, Hospitality entrepreneurs RIgsby's

Grint was named the sole shareholder of a hotel, which made £2,000 in four years

Since that time, he has stocked up on ice creams and lollies handing out the goods without charge, given he needs a licence to do take payment. Plus, let’s be honest, he hardly needs the income.

A more official hospitality endeavour, however, was the opening of Rigsby’s Guest House in 2011. With Grint the only shareholder of the business, his parents had purchased the Grade II-listed site in 2003 for £975,000.

Despite the profit potential from such a high-profile ownership, the venue only made £2,104 by the end of 2014, and closed the following year.

But in a plot twist, the venue, which was set to become private housing, reopened in March 2016, though it’s unclear whether the Grints are still in ownership of the guest house.

Like the Dark Lord himself, Grint may be out there – biding his time before making a return…