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EXCLUSIVE: Big Chicken’s CEO is Doing Right By Shaquille O’Neal’s Fast-Food Chain’s Vision

Adit Pujari

Exclusive: Big Chicken's CEO is Doing Right By Shaquille O'Neal's Fast-Food Chain's Vision

Some opportunities come your way from the least expected fronts. For Josh Halpern, Big Chicken was one such opportunity. In 2016, while working for Anheuser-Busch to launch the popular Beer Park by Budweiser in Las Vegas, he met Perry Rogers. Perry, who was a major partner in the project, also happens to be Shaquille O’Neal‘s long-time agent. Halpern tells us O’Neal was also a silent investor in the project.

It was here that Perry Rogers and Josh formed a bond. Shaq and Rogers were hopeful of working with Halpern again someday in the future. The opportunity presented itself 5 years later. O’Neal was looking to start a restaurant chain and he reached out to Josh Halpern and thus began their journey of one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains. In an exclusive interview with The Sportsrush, Josh Halpern sat down and talked at length about Big Chicken, his personal touch on the brand, and what it’s like working with Shaquille O’Neal.

He has been overseeing the brand for the last 3 years. Under his leadership, Big Chicken has not only made a name for itself but branched out at an exceptional pace. For Halpern, it is all too surreal to watch his growth in a strange new industry. It’s not surprising, therefore, for him to compare his time as Big Chicken’s CEO with a midlife crisis.

“Most people their midlife crisis, they buy a sports car or they get a girlfriend or whatever. Me, I became a fast-food chicken guy; working with Shaquille O’Neal, opening restaurants all over the place. That was my midlife crisis.”

Halpern’s analogy about running Big Chicken is as apt as it gets. His midlife crisis has earned Shaq’s fast food chain a few interesting awards. He believes it’s the duality of their identity as a restaurant that makes such success possible.

“I mean we continue to be recognized by the industry for the work that we’re doing because we’re growing really fast and we’ve done some things that no other chain can do. And it’s not that they couldn’t do it if they tried, it’s just, everyone loves Shaquille and people want to be attached to the story and we want to have BIG fun in our brand. We take the business very seriously. We don’t take ourselves seriously. So, of course, we would sell a unit in outer space to Blue Origin and partner with them on Club for the Future. And of course we would be on four cruise ships and the first-ever award we won was best fries at sea.”

Big Chicken hopes to become a ritual for families

The vision Josh Halpern has for the brand is clearly yielding results. They are set to go international with outlets set to open up in the UK. Obviously, Shaquille O’Neal’s association helps them significantly. But no brand can thrive on just popularity and Josh agrees.

We have had billions of media impressions and you wouldn’t get that solely off of me, you know. So Shaquille definitely helps with awareness and Shaquille definitely helps with bringing consumers in the first time. Everyone says oh I want to try Big Chicken because it’s Shaq’s restaurant, but having them come in once: that’s not the game, right?


He further focused on how Big Chicken focuses on leaving their customers satisfied. Their mantra isn’t one-and-done. Instead, they hope to turn Shaq’s fast-food chain into a family ritual, a meal that creates core memories for everyone.

The game is how do you become addicted to this? How do you want to come in every month every week? How does this become part of the ritual you have with your family, right? You know when my wife was a kid, she talked about how every Tuesday night her mom would pick her up from after school and they would go to Wendy’s. How does that ritual form with Big Chicken? She’s still a Wendy’s fan years later because of that, right? So people come for the first time because of Shaquille, no doubt. But after that, it’s you know, did we give them great food and great service at the right value for their money so that they want to keep coming back?

Like O’Neal, his fast-food chain is ambitious but has a distinct code. They plan to expand, but they also continue to be picky about who they do business with. Halpern and the management go through a thorough check before picking up expansion partners. At the surface, this seems so simple. Yet, unlike some major competitors, Big Chicken actually manages to execute this perfectly.

It’s hard to find expanding restaurants with such delightful ideas and morals driving them. But for Big Chicken, there is no other way. They are here to create lovely impressions on their customers, and as of now, they are undoubtedly doing so.

Post Edited By:Raahib Singh

About the author

Adit Pujari

Adit Pujari


Adit Pujari is an NBA Journalist and Strategist at The SportsRush. He formerly worked as a debate and writing trainer. An avid fan of Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Adit began following the league in 2007. With the Lakers and Boston Celtics rivalry ripe, he found himself hooked to the sport immediately. After 15 years of religiously following the league, he decided to use his knowledge base as a sports writer in 2021. Since then, he has worked as an NBA writer, led a team of MLB writers, and has now joined The SportsRush. In his spare time, Adit loves playing pickup games and exploring hidden Himalayan trails.

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