facebook pixal
Financing

Rapper Drake invests in Dave’s Hot Chicken

The partnership gives the fast-growing fast casual a celebrity boost as the 22-unit concept ramps up for aggressive growth.
Dave's Hot Chicken Drake
Photo courtesy Dave's Hot Chicken

Canadian rapper Drake has taken a minority stake in fast-growing fast-casual chain Dave’s Hot Chicken, the company announced Monday.

Drake becomes “one of the largest individual investors” in Dave’s, a chain spokesman told Restaurant Business, declining to specify the size of the investment.

In May, Drake shared a photo of himself diving into a to-go package of a Dave’s combo on his Instagram story, which has more than 92 million followers.

“I tried the food, and it was amazing,” Drake said in a statement. “After meeting the founders and hearing their story, I jumped at the opportunity to invest.”

Drake is also an investor in Daring Foods, a maker of plant-based chicken. Dave's Hot Chicken CEO Bill Phelps said there no plans to bring those products to Dave's menu.

Drake and Dave's Hot Chicken

Drake eating Dave's Hot Chicken. Photo courtesy Dave's Hot Chicken

The Drake-Dave's relationship started more than a year ago, Phelps said. The rapper was named Billboard's Artist of the Decade last spring and wanted to serve Dave's Hot Chicken at his party to celebrate the honor.

"It went off really well," Phelps said. "All the founders met him and talked ... He really loves the brand."

Consumers can expect to see Drake posting about the chain on social media.

"He's a great ambassador," Phelps said. "He's not just a celebrity. He resonates with our target audience, which is the young millennials and Gen Z."

Dave’s Hot Chicken was founded in 2017, as a parking lot pop-up in Los Angeles. The concept soon opened its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in East Hollywood.

Two years later, the founders enlisted Bill Phelps, co-founder of Blaze Pizza and former CEO of Wetzel’s Pretzels, to head the chain as it began franchising.

Dave’s has been growing quickly since then. In February, it has just eight locations. Dave’s said it has since sold the rights to more than 500 franchise locations in the U.S. and Canada, with 25 more openings planned by year’s end.

“We couldn’t believe how we could sell franchises during the pandemic,” Phelps told RB in February. “It shocked us … People are signing on to be franchisees without even seeing a restaurant.”

Joining forces with such as high-profile name as Drake follows in the star-powered growth trajectory of Phelps’ former fast casual, Blaze, which counts NBA powerhouse LeBron James as one of its early investors.

Dave’s Hot Chicken’s menu focuses on fried chicken, ranging from no spice to Reaper-level hot. The chain’s offerings are simple and include chicken tenders and sliders, as well as sides such as mac & cheese, kale slaw and fries.

Drake’s investment is the latest in what has been a very active time for emerging chains. In recent months, investors have put significant amounts of cash in concepts such as Pincho, Dirty Birdand Playa Bowls.

This story has been updated with comments from Dave's Hot Chicken CEO Bill Phelps.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Want breaking news at your fingertips?

Get today’s need-to-know restaurant industry intelligence. Sign up to receive texts from Restaurant Business on news and insights that matter to your brand.

Trending

More from our partners