Utah and Idaho have BIG things on the horizon. 

Big Chicken, the star-powered fast casual chicken concept founded by Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, announced today that the accomplished Arizona-based duo and long-standing business partners, Steve Christensen and Reid Richards, have inked another agreement with Big Chicken to debut the brand in both Utah and Idaho. 

“As a BYU alumnus, I have strong roots in Utah and see its massive business potential as a rapidly-growing retail market,” says Christensen. “Idaho is also seeing major growth and development. Big Chicken is an innovative brand backed by a leadership team that matches the exciting energy building in both areas, so bringing it to both states was a natural point of expansion for us.” 

While formerly on opposing sides of the age-old rivalry between Brigham Young University and University of Utah, Christensen and Richards have since built a 13-year successful partnership owning and operating restaurants together. Their portfolio includes multi-unit ownership of 15 Five Guys locations in Western New York and current franchise owners of the breakthrough brunch restaurant concept Another Broken Egg Cafe in Gilbert, Arizona. Prior to joining forces, Christensen spent 25 years professionally in international business development across three continents while Richards amassed three decades of restaurant management experience with brands such as Taco Bell and Dunkin’ Donuts. The duo also recently announced their agreement to open 12 Big Chicken locations in the Greater Phoenix area and also have plans to expand into Ohio with the brand. 

“When we first met Steve and Reid, it was clear that they shared our vision for Big Chicken and were positioned to grow the brand into exciting markets like Idaho and Utah,” says Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. “As more and more people migrate into both areas, we know the future of Big Chicken is bright, with strong leadership teams setting the tone for success.” 

The openings in Utah and Idaho will mark another expansion for the rapidly-growing brand, which currently includes locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, metro-New York’s UBS Arena, Austin’s Moody Center and on two Carnival Cruise ships. In addition to the Ohio deal, Big Chicken is expanding into nine other states and has more than 150 locations in its development pipeline. 

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. ABG owns the Shaquille O’Neal brand in partnership with Shaquille O’Neal. 

● 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