Big Chicken, the fast casual concept creating national buzz amid an extraordinary rise in America’s restaurant scene, is achieving a major brand milestone with the opening of its first franchise location.

Shaquille O’Neal, the “man in the middle” of this momentous occasion, founded Big Chicken in 2018, creating a brand that commands both a fanatical consumer following and an unrelenting high level of franchise investor interest. His vision has led to a franchise development pipeline now surpassing 150 future locations, as well as this historic franchising moment for the brand. The first franchise location is set to open on August 11 at Austin Landing, the Dayton, Ohio area’s premier mixed-use retail, restaurant and entertainment destination. 

“From the beginning, a major goal for Shaquille and the leadership team has been to give as many people as possible the opportunity to enjoy our menu and the Big Chicken experience. Franchising has given us a strategic pathway to make that happen,” says Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern. “We will not stray from aligning with best-in-class franchise partners…operators who have the skills and desire to channel the brand essence that Shaquille designed with his co-founders Matt Silverman and Matt Piekarski. We have developed an incredible team of franchisees in our first year of franchising.”

The new Big Chicken location is no exception. Under the ownership of restaurant industry veterans and multi-unit, multi-brand franchisees Steve Christensen, Reid Richards and Mike Craddick, it will be the first of three Dayton-area locations to open. Collectively, the trio have owned and operated more than 30 franchised restaurant locations and have more than 60 years of combined industry experience.

“We could not be more excited to introduce Big Chicken to the Dayton area. As a brand that stands apart from all others, and is already making waves, it’s a privilege to be opening its first franchised location in a market with such strong potential,” says Craddick, who has run restaurants in the area for more than a decade. “The hype in the community is building and we know locals will be blown away by the unique and delicious menu items we have in store.”

With office space and hotels in the venue, Big Chicken takes its place alongside a wide variety of national and local brands at a major hub for locals. As a vibrant, fun concept, Big Chicken is building off the massive success of its corporate-owned restaurants and licensed locations operating in non-traditional settings by continuing to target openings in top-tier venues like Austin’s Landing.

Offerings at the new location will feature a curated taste of Shaquille O’Neal’s childhood, including specialty crispy chicken sandwiches like The Shaq Attack (pepper jack cheese, jalapeño slaw, and spicy chipotle barbecue sauce), M.D.E. Chicken (Shaq Sauce, chicken breast and B&B Pickles) and Uncle Jerome (Nashville hot chicken, mayo and pickles). These dynamic sandwiches can be paired with a variety of signature sides including fresh fries and mac n’ cheese.

The Big Chicken opening capitalizes on incredible brand momentum that it has been building since opening its first two locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles in 2018. In 2021, it announced its franchising opportunity, which is geared towards investors interested in multi-unit operation and has already led to Big Chicken inking several monumental deals for over 150 planned locations across nine states. In addition to Austin Landing, the rest of 2022 will go down as one of the brand’s most memorable timeframes, with franchise location openings also planned for Las Vegas; Houston; Valencia, California; Gilbert, Arizona; and Renton, Washington.

At the same time, Big Chicken has landed a major partnership with Delaware North to open restaurants in state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venues such as Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, metro-New York’s UBS Arena and Austin’s Moody Center. To top it all off, the brand also expanded onto two Carnival Cruise Ships with plans to open on a third ship later this year.

“This is an incredible moment for Big Chicken. My inspiration was always in sharing delicious food with family and friends, and seeing our first franchise opening feels like we are accomplishing just that,” says O’Neal. “Steve, Reid and Mike are great teammates…can’t wait to see them grow our brand in Ohio!” 

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. With significant interest from new owners, franchise investors will have the advantage to join a brand on the cusp of worldwide expansion.

Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, News, Big Chicken