Shaquille O’Neal-backed Big Chicken and billionaire Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin space program are teaming up to nurture the next generation of explorers, the companies announced Thursday.
The Las Vegas, Nev.-based brand will be working with Blue Origin’s nonprofit arm, Club for the Future, to take the Big Chicken vision to space.
As part of the program announced Thursday, Big Chicken’s leadership team and O’Neal will serve as “club ambassadors” to inspire and engage students. Club for the Future will launch new community outreach programs at Big Chicken restaurants, including inviting patrons to draw their vision of the future on “Postcards to Space.” Blue Origin will fly the postcards on one of its future New Shepard missions, stamp them “flown to space” and return them to the creators.
Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken, and founder O’Neal plan to create their vision postcards within the next few weeks, Halpern said in an interview.
“Our brand was always built on big dreams and big fun,” Halpern said, “And I can't think of anything more fun or a bigger dream than this.
“This is where we're going,” he continued, “not in our generation maybe, not even in our kids’ generation but by our grandkids generation this is where we'll be.”
Halpern said the project also enhances Big Chicken’s corporate social responsibility platform.
“Shaquille has always been about kids,” he said. “The Shaquille O'Neal foundation is all about kids and the ability to focus on kids’ education and make that a major tenet of who we are as an organization. It's truly fantastic so we can marry up a big dream and big fun into something that truly makes us feel proud as an organization to focus on.”
Halpern said Big Chicken, which began franchising in 2018 and is introducing its first drive-thru and a breakfast platform, could use the space venture as a springboard for other business projects.
“We'll be able to work with Blue Origin and with Club for the Future about what's the best way to get people excited in our restaurants, outside our restaurants,” he said. In addition, Big Chicken, he said, can look at “how can it be tied into our loyalty platform. Could it be tied into menu LTO. There's a million different directions that this could go, but the most important thing right now is getting started.”
Halpern said the launched the project by connecting to Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, via the social platform LinkedIn.
“We got to talking and we realized there's actually something very much here about space travel and tourism,” he said, likening it to where commercial air travel was 100 years ago.
“Living and working in space for the benefit of Earth should be delicious,” said Michael Edmonds, senior vice president for strategy, marketing and sales at Blue Origin and president of the Club for the Future, in a statement, adding that efforts can focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. “Shaq’s Big Chicken and Club for the Future will fuel students’ appetites and minds as they pursue careers in STEM.”
O’Neal, in a statement, added: “I’m proud to team up with Blue Origin to help inspire the next generation. This first-of-its-kind partnership is a game changer, and I’m excited to take the chicken sandwich game to a whole new level.”
Big Chicken, which opened in 2018, has more than 16 units and franchise deals for 200 more. It also offers non-traditional locations like arenas, cruise ships and airports. The brand is owned and developed by JRS Hospitality, Authentic Brands Group and O’Neal.
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