It’s migration season and Shaquille O’Neal-owned Big Chicken is soaring simultaneously into a pair of prime U.S. markets that it will soon call home.

The brand that has quickly spread its wings across the country with more than 150 locations now in its franchise development pipeline, has signed a monumental agreement to grow into North Florida and Northwest Arkansas. Less than a year since launching a dynamic growth strategy, Big Chicken is flying high with this most recent deal, which includes a total of 40 new units between the two markets. Panhandle Restaurant Group (PRG), the well-known Florida-based restaurant franchise operator, has signed the deal with Big Chicken. The team at PRG brings an experienced perspective to Big Chicken as a multi-brand franchisee and as a brand cultivator serving in the franchisor role.

“We are entering the Big Chicken family at an inflection point and can clearly see an unlimited upside for us,” says Chris McMillan, co-owner of PRG with his wife Amy. “In the restaurant industry, you have to possess not only passion for the food but for the people as well, and from the moment we sat down with the Big Chicken team it was clear our energy was in alignment. We couldn’t be more excited to bring this awesome brand to Florida and Arkansas!”

From humble beginnings as quick service restaurant employees at age 16, the restaurant industry has been Chris and Amy’s lifelong passion and career. Chris soon became a multi-unit restaurant supervisor and from there teamed up with Amy to own and operate 22 Sonic drive-in locations across multiple regions. The powerhouse restaurant couple then expanded their portfolio to develop and/or operate more than 10 additional brands. Their Big Chicken investment marks one of their biggest restaurant commitments yet.

“We want to do business with people we see as true partners,” says Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. “From the moment I met Chris, Amy, and the PRG team I knew they saw the world the same way. Big Chicken and PRG will do amazing things together.”

Alongside its expansion in Florida and Arkansas with the McMillans, Big Chicken recently announced its upcoming franchise expansion into the West Texas, Central Oklahoma, Chicagoland, Arizona and Greater Los Angeles markets. Current locations are also open in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, metro-New York’s UBS Arena, and on two Carnival Cruise ships. Tailored for skilled restaurant owner/operator groups, the franchise investment has been designed to align with successful, multi-unit investors who want to become part of Shaquille’s dream team.

“I’m used to winning championships and this is another team of all-stars that is joining the Big Chicken family,” said O’Neal. “I’m excited to expand Big Chicken into Florida and Arkansas and Chris and Amy are the perfect people to grow with.”

Along with O’Neal, the championship pedigree behind Big Chicken includes a pair of powerful ownership group partners, including:

●  Authentic Brands (ABG), a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, which owns a portfolio of iconic and world-renowned brands including Sports Illustrated, Elvis Presley and Forever 21.

● JRS Hospitality, Las Vegas’ leading events and catering company with a reputation for hosting top tier parties, private dining and corporate gatherings at its iconic venues such as Cabo Wabo, Hexx, and Beer Park.

“The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) is thrilled to welcome Big Chicken and its famed ‘big flavor, big food, and big fun’ to Florida’s Panhandle,” says Carol Dover, President and CEO of FRLA. “We look forward to partnering with the Panhandle Restaurant Group and having Big Chicken join FRLA and Florida’s unparalleled hospitality industry”

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