Big Chicken is revealing its all-star roster.
On the heels of its first franchised location opening and several more to follow in the second half of 2022, Shaquille O’Neal owned Big Chicken announced today that it has appointed a trio of executives to its leadership team. The additions include Michael Fontes as Vice President of Construction, Brian Cochran as Director of Operations and Stephanie Bitters as Business Controller.
“If I had to choose one phrase to describe my time so far at Big Chicken, it would be ‘BIG GROWTH’,” says Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern, who launched the company’s franchise initiative just one year ago. “We’re expanding at a rapid rate and the incredible talents that Michael, Brian and Stephanie each bring to the table will help to ensure that we offer a top-quality experience for our franchisees, their teams and our guests. We’re thrilled to have them officially join the team.”
Fontes, Cochran and Bitters are all current team members of one of Big Chicken’s ownership groups JRS Hospitality (JRS), a leading Las Vegas events, restaurants and catering company with a reputation for hosting top tier parties, private dining and corporate gatherings at its iconic venues – Cabo Wabo, Hexx, Beer Park and more.
A seasoned executive, Fontes worked at a pharmaceutical company in Michigan for 11 years before moving to Las Vegas and working for the Wynn Las Vegas as its Distributions and Operations Manager. From there, he was approached by the JRS team and has been serving as its Director of Projects and Facilities ever since. Cochran began his restaurant career at Brinker International supporting the opening of Chili’s restaurants nationwide. Following Chili’s, he worked as the managing partner for celebrity chef Mark Miller at Coyote Café before spending 13 years with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group as its Director of Operations. Bitters’ career spans through various industries focusing on product and project management as an independent contractor. She joined the JRS team in 2012 to help streamline its finances. Since then, she has worked to implement systems that increase profitability and efficiency across all JRS brands. The trio’s combined experience will help launch Big Chicken into its next phase of growth.
“LET’S GO! Look at the stars joining the team! Our franchisees should feel confident that Big Chicken has their back…and these team members bring so much to the table,” says O’Neal, who founded the company in 2018. “They’ll play a big part in supporting the new store openings and ongoing operations.”
Since the announcement of Big Chicken’s franchising initiative just one year ago, the brand has more than 150 locations in its development pipeline. Upcoming franchise expansion includes new restaurants in Illinois, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Tennessee. Big Chicken currently has existing locations open in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and in the Dayton, Ohio region, as well as Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, metro-New York’s UBS Arena, The Moody Center in Austin and on two Carnival Cruise ships.
Ideal franchisees are multi-unit operators who trust and understand the established system Big Chicken has in place and have the capital to open several units. Restaurant experience — whether traditional or not — is preferred, but not required. Franchise investors will have the advantage to join a brand on the cusp of worldwide expansion.