Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken to Franchise with Skilled Operators

NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken first opened in 2018 on Paradise Road in Las Vegas. It aims to franchise with skilled operators in the coming years. “He didn’t want it to be some cheffy homage to himself,” said Josh Halpern, hired earlier this year as CEO to grow the brand and drive the franchise program. “He’s deeply involved.”

O’Neal is experienced in franchise ownership in Papa John’s where he’s also on the board of directors, Krispy Kreme and Five Guys, was always part of the plan, said Halpern. The rollout of a strategic franchise program aimed at multi-unit investors comes after a second Big Chicken opened in Glendale, California, in February 2020, and a location opened last year on a Carnival Cruise ship, the Mardi Gras.

“In order for him to put his name on it as the franchisor, we really had to work out the kinks,” said Halpern of running corporate locations first. The ownership group refined operations and developed its training programs with Dede Hilovsky, who spent several years in training and development at Jamba and Del Taco before starting a consultancy group.

As Halpern and Sam Stanovich, Big Chicken’s new senior vice president of franchise leadership, begin working with prospective franchisees, Halpern said they’ll consider everything from two-unit agreements to larger multi-unit development deals but always with operating experience in mind.

“My first and most important job is protecting the legacy of Shaquille O’Neal,” said Halpern of finding franchisees who are serious about growing a successful brand and not just in it for the star power of O’Neal.

Big Chicken restaurant ranges from $653,000 to $1,567,000, including a $40,000 franchise fee. The royalty fee is 5 percent of gross sales.

Big Chicken is also choosing to expand in non traditional locations. Carnival will put Big Chicken units on two more cruise ships, and the concept is slated to open inside Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and UBS Arena in New York in October. Locations are also planned inside the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, and at the Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, next year.

Source: Franchise Times

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