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SLAM DUNK: Shaq-Owned Big Chicken hatches new restaurant location in northwest Arkansas

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SLAM DUNK: Shaq-Owned Big Chicken hatches new restaurant location in northwest Arkansas


The Big Aristotle, one of the creative nicknames associated with basketball great and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, is putting his moniker and star power behind the newest fast-food restaurant in Northwest Arkansas.

 Big Chicken, the star-powered chicken restaurant concept founded by O’Neal, announced the opening of its newest location in downtown Fayetteville on the day after Christmas. The restaurant held a “soft opening” on Dec. 27 and followed the grand opening of the state’s first Big Chicken franchise on Jan. 3 

As part of a massive 40-unit deal to bring the trending fast-casual chicken brand from the Gulf Coast across to Northwest Arkansas, the Fayetteville location at 2190 MLK Blvd will be the first to open for husband-wife duo, Chris and Amy McMillan, co-owners of Northwest Arkansas Restaurant Group sister company to Panhandle Restaurant Group in Panama City, Fla. 

This location will also be partly owned by Rusty Enfinger, Clay Moser, and Ronnie Brewer Jr, former NBA player and current assistant coach to the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team. The restaurant will officially be the first to introduce the brand’s mouthwatering menu items to residents of Arkansas. 

“We’re absolutely thrilled to bring Big Chicken to Fayetteville and are eagerly awaiting to open our doors in November,” said Amy McMillan. “After meeting Josh and the entire Big Chicken team, we knew that we made the right decision. We can’t wait to connect with the Fayetteville community and bring big fun and big flavor throughout the city.” 

According to a press release, the McMillans are seasoned entrepreneurs in the industry with a distinguished business portfolio and bring many skills into their new business venture with Big Chicken. The fast food and casual restaurant operators’ portfolio also includes brands like Sonic Drive-ins, Teriyaki Madness, Rib Crib BBQ, PJ’s Coffee, 850 Pizza and C-Mac’s, a seafood eatery.

 “We were ecstatic to have such esteemed restaurant operators like Amy and Chris join Big Chicken,” said Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. “Beyond their impressive ownership portfolio, their love for the QSR industry carries through in everything that they do. This is just the start of big things for Big Chicken in Arkansas.” 

With 300-plus locations in development nationwide for the brand, Big Chicken currently has locations open in Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Seattle; Houston; Gilbert, Arizona; Rosemont, Illinois and in the Dayton, Ohio region, as well as in metro-New York’s UBS Arena, The Comcast Center in Philadelphia, The Moody Center in Austin, ASU’s Mullett Arena, Palm Springs’ Acrisure Arena, St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, Kansas City International Airport and on three Carnival Cruise ships. 

Founded in 2018, Big Chicken is backed by JRS Hospitality, an accomplished Las Vegas-based ownership group; Authentic Brands Group, a multinational, multi- billion-dollar brand development, marketing and enter- tainment company; and Hall of Fame basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. 

The company’s promotions show that Big Chicken fuses O’Neal’s home-cooked childhood favorites with today’s trending flavors. From crispy chicken sandwiches and tenders to Cheez-It® crusted mac n’ cheese and hand-crafted ice cream shakes, each menu item tells a story all while offering guests an inside look into the life and personality of Shaquille O’Neal. With 13 traditional locations currently open and several in the development pipeline, Big Chicken is also looking to begin U.S. and international expansion through franchising, company officials said.

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