Big Chicken, the star-powered fast casual chicken concept founded by Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, announced today that the accomplished Arizona-based restaurant ownership team of Steve Christensen and Reid Richards have signed a multi-unit agreement to bring 12 locations to Arizona. O’Neal played for the Suns during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons.

“It’s rare to come across an opportunity like Big Chicken, which is the total package in terms of originality and taste as well as featuring an outstanding operating model,” says Christensen. “We were immediately drawn to the brand’s vibe and quality of the Big Chicken menu. It’s clear to us that the possibilities are endless for this concept, especially when you consider the phenomenal leadership team behind it. We truly believe that Big Chicken will be Arizona’s, and the nation’s, leader in the premium fast-casual chicken restaurant category and can’t wait to be a part of it.” 

As former multi-unit franchisees 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, Christensen and Richards have spent the last 13 years together owning and operating restaurants. Prior to joining forces, Christensen spent 25 years professionally in international business development across three continents. Richards previously amassed three decades of restaurant management experience with brands such as Taco Bell and Dunkin’. Now, the duo is expanding its portfolio of top brands with Big Chicken, leveraging their successes and operations expertise to firmly establish Big Chicken in a new market, while putting an emphasis on building lasting relationships with employees and consumers. 

“Steve and Reid have an impressive résumé together and it’s clear they bring fantastic leadership to their restaurants. I can’t think of better franchise partners  to introduce the brand into one of America’s most attractive markets,” says Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern. “With a major growth focus for Big Chicken on America’s most desirable places to live, we’re looking forward to debuting Shaquille’s family-inspired comfort foods in Arizona.”

When the first restaurant in the Phoenix Metro Area opens, it will join a rapidly expanding brand, which currently includes locations 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, like Christensen and 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 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. 


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