A fast-casual chicken concept founded by NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal will be landing at not one, but three locations in the region, one of them in Butler County.
Big Chicken, in addition to the previously reported location opening by late June to mid-July at 10655 Innovation Drive in Miami Twp.’s Austin Landing, also is looking at opening restaurants in Beavercreek and West Chester Twp. in 2023 and 2024, respectively.
The three locations are part of an agreement inked by franchisees Steve Christensen and Reid Richards, and Ohio restaurateur Mike Craddick, whom they met eight years ago through his ownership of several Five Guys and Another Broken Egg locations in Ohio.
Big Chicken offers crispy chicken sandwiches, sliders, popcorn chicken, chicken tenders, salads and “sidekick” side dishes, including signature dish Lucille’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It also offers ice cream shakes, soft serve cones, ice cream sandwiches, plus boozy and non-alcoholic beverages.
The three initial locations are just the start, said Craddick, who offers more than 30 years of experience in the Dayton retail market,
“There’s plenty of places I would like to go, depending on the rents and so forth,” he told this news outlet. “Those (three) are just some very successful areas. We could (also) go to Wilmington Pike.
“I would like to go to Huber Heights, as well.”
Christensen said O’Neal secured executive chefs from his restaurant portfolio to create menu items that are cage-free with no additives, preservatives, MSG or GMOs. That means “tremendous” appeal based on food alone, with O’Neal’s involvement being “the cherry on top.”
“The marketing ability that he has and the likeability of his character is just a bonus,” he said.
Founded in 2018, Big Chicken is backed by O’Neal, along with multi-national, multi-billion-dollar brand development, marketing and entertainment company Authentic Brands (ABG) and events and catering company JRS Hospitality.
The three new Big Chicken restaurants in Ohio will join a rapidly expanding brand that includes locations in Glendale, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, plus arena outposts in Austin, New York and Seattle and offerings aboard two Carnival Cruise ships.
Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern said because of his prior involvement in the beer industry, he knows the Dayton market and the surrounding area to be “a really great area” for Big Chicken’s kind of concept.
U.S. and international expansion through franchising kicked off last July, Halpern said. In addition to the Ohio deal, Big Chicken expanding into nine other states and has more than 150 locations in its development pipeline.
O’Neal isn’t just a Big Chicken co-owner, Halpern said. Menu items are rooted in his life.
“This was really built to be connected to … the flavor profiles and recipes that he grew up with and always enjoyed,” he said. “That authentic connection to Shaquille, who’s one of the most popular celebrities on the planet, that’s a great appeal to bringing into the restaurant. People are going to keep coming back because our menu was built by two world-class chefs.”
Big Chicken locations are between 2,200 and 2,800 square feet and employ 15 to 20 people, Halpern said.
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