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2 Years Before Expanding His $400 Million Business, Shaquille O’Neal Celebrated $1.5 Billion Arena Spot With Tribute Burger to NHL Team

Published 10/30/2023, 7:02 AM EDT

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Big Chicken comes with big vision. When he launched his fast-casual dining concept, Shaquille O’Neal wanted to make his happiness-spreading menu a staple of the sports scene. He’s growing his chicken sandwich empire and including his fans in it. Big Chicken and its mogul are going places. He’s celebrating every new location with a special nod to the local communities.

He secured the biggest site about two years ago. Sticking to the theme of spreading smiles, Shaq dedicated the entire launch to one fandom.

Shaquille O’Neal draws fans to Big Chicken empire

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Sandwich-lover Shaquille O’Neal is set to become the mogul of a national restaurant chain with at least 300 locations. Brick-and-mortar restaurants aren’t the only plans on the roadmap. Shaq has devised Big Chicken concepts for hi-tech kiosks too. Apart from launching on the Carnival Cruise line, the NBA analyst wants to make Big Chicken a favorite snack within the sports scene.

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So alongside the restaurants, he’s launching in sports arenas. In 2021, he ticked this off his checklist in a grand way. Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena and St. Louis’ Busch Stadiums have their own kiosks now but New York came first.

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Big Chicken debuted in New York’s UBS Arena in 2021. The $1.5 billion worth stadium is the home of the New York Islanders of the NHL. As if his New York debut couldn’t get any better, he did something special for hockey fans. O’Neal launched ‘The Islander,’ a sandwich dedicated to the franchise and its fans, at the opening.

The exclusive New York sandwich is made in collaboration with Huntington-based Blue Line Deli & Bagel. Instead of the regular bun, the sandwich is enclosed with blue and orange striped bagels based on the Islanders colours. As with any offering on the menu, it comes loaded with succulent crispy chicken, topped with Buffalo sauce, cream cheese, and blue cheese.

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Big Chicken’s menu is already dedicated to Shaq’s career and his closest muses. For instance, his mother features as Lucille’s Mac and Cheese. With every opening, he’s also doing something extra special for fans in that place. The Islander is a special dedication to New York’s hockey fans. And he’s done something similar for many places.

Shaq’s sandwiches are for all

Big Chicken timed its arrival to the UBS with the restaurant chain going from a Shaq-owned business to a franchise company.

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He’s signing local partnerships to launch multiple units in different states. Notably, Big Chicken signed its latest deals to enter the Midwest market with at least 20 units in development across Michigan. Furthermore, Pennsylvania will also have at least 20 units in development.

According to CEO Josh Halpern, becoming a franchisee with them is tougher than entering an Ivy League school. In fact, they rejected over 3000 applications to narrow it down to hospitality veterans everywhere.

And of course, when they do launch, it’s always special. Some store openings gave out free sandwiches. Sometimes they add a charity element. If you’re lucky, Shaq himself will drop by the opening to meet fans.

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Shaq’s putting more Big Chicken markers on the national map. Anticipate more from this Titanic restauranteur in the near future.

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Written by:

Caroline John

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Caroline John is a senior NBA writer at EssentiallySports. With a Journalism degree from a reputed university, she left the team spellbound from day one. Her work ethic, dedication, and hardworking nature pushed her to bag publishing rights in the third month of her tenure at the organization.
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Edited by:

Aakash Nair