Big Chicken, the star-powered fast casual chicken concept founded by Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, announced today that it has signed a franchise agreement to open its first restaurant in Tennessee with local restauranter Jim Richards.

“With four decades of restaurant industry experience under my belt, I know the importance of creating a ‘wow’ experience for customers,” says Richards, who signed on to open ten locations across the state. “The food, service and overall experience at Big Chicken are truly unmatched and as someone who’s lived in the area for over 40 years, I’m confident we’ll become a quick hit for folks in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.”

Richards has experience working with several brands in the restaurant industry. He served as the Vice President of Franchise Services for The Krystal Company for ten years before launching his own company, GPR Hospitality LLC, where he currently owns and operates 13 Five Guys restaurants in Tennessee and North Georgia as well as Fiamma Pizza Company with partner Brion Voges. With strong connections of his own in the industry, Voges, along with Richards’ other business partners and associates Andrew Gardner, Bruce Bowman and Rodney Hutson will also be involved in operating the new Big Chicken locations. Together, they look forward to leveraging their industry knowledge to expand the brand’s presence into Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

“Jim’s extensive experience in restaurant ownership is extremely impressive and his excitement about the business is infectious,” says Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern. “Nashville is a prime market and one we’ve been excited to expand into and Knoxville and Chattanooga are incredible college town markets that we’re excited to enter as well. We look forward to supporting Jim and his team as they introduce Music City and Eastern Tennessee to BIG flavor, BIG food and BIG fun!”

Since the announcement of Big Chicken’s franchising initiative just one year ago, the brand has more than 150 locations in its development pipeline. With its first franchised location set to open this August in Dayton, Ohio, additional upcoming franchise expansion includes new restaurants in Illinois, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho, Utah, Tennessee and Nevada. Big Chicken currently has an existing location open in Las Vegas along with restaurants in Los Angeles, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, metro-New York’s UBS Arena, The Moody Center in Austin and on two Carnival Cruise ships. Tailored for skilled restaurant owner/operator groups, like Richards, the franchise investment has been designed to align with successful, multi-unit investors who want to become part of Shaquille’s dream team.

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 Reebok. 

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. 

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.

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, News, Big Chicken