SAN ANTONIO – The fast-casual restaurant franchise Big Chicken — owned by the big man himself, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal — is entering the San Antonio market.
Josh Halpern, the CEO of Big Chicken, told KSAT that restaurants in the Alamo City are expected to open in 2023 or early 2024. This is part of Big Chicken’s expansion into Texas, which will add about 50 locations across Austin, Dallas and Houston in addition to San Antonio.
The first restaurants will open later this year in Houston and then Austin, he said, though a kitchen in Austin’s Moody Center is expected to open this month.
“It’s going to take us just a few minutes here to get to San Antonio, but we’re really excited to come to the market,” Halpern said. “I know Shaquille has a deep personal connection to the market, and I’m sure he’s excited to get in San Antonio as well.”
They do not have an exact number of restaurants that will open in San Antonio.
This will be the first time Big Chicken, which was founded in 2018 by the Hall of Famer, enters the Texas market.
It currently has stand-alone locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and kitchens in arenas in Seattle and metro New York.
“We’re expanding nationwide. There’s markets that are more authentic to Shaquille for sure, and San Antonio is one of those markets,” Halpern said.
While Shaq never played for a professional Texas team, he played basketball at Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio and even helped them win a state championship during his senior year.
“So the ability to connect Shaquille and his love of fried chicken in the markets that mattered most are critically important,” Halpern said.
Halpern added that O’Neal actively built the recipes with executive chefs and menu items have unique ties to people in his life.
For example, one sandwich is named after his uncle Jerome and another is named after fellow NBA legend Charles Barkley. The macaroni and cheese dish is named after his mother, Lucille.
Its restaurants are known for crispy chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, shakes and fries, Halpern said.
A news release states that gas station/convenience store operators Fazil and Frank Malik and businessman Noordin Jhaver will head the expansion into Texas.
“Big Chicken wouldn’t be growing like it is without the team behind it,” O’Neal said in the release. “My team has done a fantastic job making sure we’re growing in the right way, with the right people. Now, we’re going even BIGGER in Texas and I’m excited to be teammates with Fazil, Frank and Noordin.”
Other Big Chicken locations are opening in Central Oklahoma, Chicago, Arizona and greater Los Angeles.