🍟 4/4/2024 – Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken is BALLING 🏀

Big Chicken

Fast Facts

Background

  • HQ: Las Vegas, NV
  • Founded in 2018, franchising since 2021
  • Big Chicken is a fast-casual restaurant with a menu that fuses home-cooked childhood favorites with bold new flavors.

Franchise Fees

Financial Overview

  • Big Chicken does not share any financial performance data 

The Wolf’s Take 🍟

Big Chicken doesn’t share any financial performance data, so this is rare coverage from me on a brand that doesn’t disclose information to franchise buyers.

But given the celebrity backing of Shaq, and the massive headlines this brand has continuously pumped out since beginning franchising, they’re worth taking a deeper dive into.

What big headlines, you ask? Well, let’s take a look at the development deals they have in place. It’s not just the quantity of units in development, but the quality of the operators that are signing them.

Quick plug: listen to my conversation with Jace Mattinson, a Big Chicken franchisee in Texas

Big Chicken Growth

  • March 2022: Firehouse Subs franchisee signs 6-unit agreement 
  • April 2022: Convenience store behemoth signs 50 unit agreement in Texas
  • July 2023: Massive 7-Eleven franchisee signs development deal in Illinois 
  • September 2023: 20 unit development agreement signed in Michigan 
  • November 2023: Crumbl cookies franchisee signs Big Chicken agreement
  • April 2024: Restaurant operator signs 6 unit deal to build in Louisiana

The brand now has over 350 locations in development, and as you can tell….they’re not working with rookie operators. 

They are partnering with experienced multi-unit retail owners, largely in the food and beverage space already. You can expect units to pop up quickly given these groups have capital and management teams ready to go.

How is Shaq pulling this off?

Most of us know the name Shaquille O’Neal. The NBA hall of famer did a phenomenal job of marketing his personal brand throughout his career, and arguably even better since he retired from the hardwood.

You’ve probably seen the big guy in Icy Hot commercials, Papa John’s commercials, reruns of Shazam, or for basketball fans – giving halftime analysis during NBA games.

So how is he doing all that…while growing his franchise like wildfire? 

It turns out that he has a lot of help! Big Chicken may be an emerging brand, but they have hte resources of a giant. 

In addition to Shaq, the Big Chicken partner group includes Authentic Brand Groups (ABG), and JRS Hospitality. 

For the uninitiated (ahem, *me*, until I researched this), ABG is a $20 billion+ holding company that is headquartered in New York City. They own brands like Reebok, Forever 21, Brooks brothers, Aéropostale, Nautica, and more. They also have licensing deals with celebs including Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal.

Meanwhile, JRS Hospitality is a massive restaurant management and ops company. They operate more restaurants in Las Vegas than any other company in the world (including casinos), and do over $100M on the strip alone. 

While I don’t know the true inside details, I’d imagine Shaq’s primary role is to be the face of the brand and drive marketing efforts (although he did have a big hand in the menu as well!). But with partners like JRS and ABG, he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty in the kitchen or in the buildout process if he doesn’t want to.

Why Is This Brand Growing?

To state the obvious, it’s got Shaq appeal baby!

I mean that seriously too – Shaq has built up a ton of goodwill and endearment with the public over the years, with videos of his “acts of shaqness” regularly going viral.

If you’re a big time fast-food operator, why not buy into the brand that gets you connected to a global name?

Beyond that, from the start,  it’s obvious that Shaq knew what he could do and more importantly what he couldn’t do. The big fella has already been a massive franchise owner of Auntie Anne’s, Papa John’s, Five Guys, and others, so it’s not his first rodeo.

Having JRS in the mix means that Big Chicken restaurants are dialed in, both operationally and with their menu.

The menu consists of just 3 categories:

  • “Mains” aka a variety of chicken sandwiches with different toppings and spreads
  • “Sides” aka fries, Mac N’ Cheese, or Jalapeño slaw
  • “Sweets” aka 4 milkshake options or 4 sundae options 

They don’t sell burgers, but they do offer 2 salad options with chicken mixed in.

Overall, Big Chicken has been franchising for just ~3 years, and so far they:

  • Have 350+ units in development 
  • Have signed a dozen+ quality restaurant operators
  • Are building a brand with serious marketing firepower thanks to Shaq

As units begin to open up more around the country, we’ll get more insight into how they’re performing. 

Given everything Big Chicken has going for them, I won’t be surprised if their AUV’s immediately compete with the big boys!

P.S.

Big Chicken is cool….but feels like a missed opportunity to call it The Chicken Shaq 😂

Resources


The Dichotomy of Ownership by Tanning Salon Don

This is a great reminder that oftentimes the early days of starting your own business means you are truly buying yourself a 7 days a week job.

You have to scale yourself out of your business, which can only be done when the business can afford it (which usually only comes after multiple years of operating and building). 

Is it worth it? Yes. But be prepared for the fight 💪

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