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How Big Chicken’s CEO is setting up Shaq’s business for explosive growth

Josh Halpern is guiding the company’s global expansion plans with an eye toward efficiency — and with a major assist from his celebrity boss.


Shaquille O’Neal can seemingly do it all. He was a Hall of Fame basketball player. He’s a popular commentator. He’s been an actor, a musician and video game icon.

Now he’s a successful restaurateur. O’Neal founded the emerging fast-casual franchise Big Chicken, which has a handful of brick-and-mortar and ghost-kitchen locations open to date but hundreds more in the works. 

O’Neal’s key teammate in the Big Chicken business is Josh Halpern, the CEO who’s been tasked with turning the brand into as much of a global icon as its founder. Halpern has positioned Big Chicken to scale quickly through a business model that minimizes waste and excessive costs.

“At the end of the day, we need to just act with purpose so we don't spend a lot of time wasted outside of thinking about how to drive occupancy cost, food cost and labor cost,” he said.

In this episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, Halpern sat down with Nation’s Restaurant News’ editor in chief to discuss how integral O’Neal is to the Big Chicken business and how the company is diversifying its growth model through nontraditional locations, among other things.

In this conversation — recorded live at COEX in Austin, Texas — you’ll find out why: 

  • A high-profile person is a great way to get your brand attention, but your food has to seal the deal
  • A celebrity can open a lot of doors for growth — especially if they’re very involved
  • Franchisees aren’t just an extension of your brand; they’re also your customer
  • Acting with purpose can protect you from waste
  • Communication is key to staying ahead of whatever comes next with supply chain 

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

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