June 22, 2023
Shaquille O'Neal's fried chicken concept, Big Chicken, held its Philadelphia grand opening in the Comcast Center on Thursday.
The NBA legend's growing fast food chain, which he founded in 2018, is known for its 5-ounce, crispy chicken sandwiches packed with toppings and dressings that Shaq loved in his childhood. Among the restaurant's bestsellers is the Big and Sloppy, loaded with layers of mac and cheese, fried onions and roasted garlic barbecue aioli. The M.D.E., which stands for "Most Dominant Ever," is a simpler item made with Shaq's signature sauce and pickles.
In addition to its extensive selection of chicken sandwiches, Big Chicken offers popcorn chicken, sliders, tenders and salads topped with fried chicken. Patrons can also snag steak fries, sweet potato waffle fries, "dirty" fries (topped with cheese sauce, bacon, banana peppers and chipotle barbecue sauce), jalapeño coleslaw and Lucille's mac and cheese, named after O'Neal's mother. A small dessert menu features milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches and a cookie with a circumference the size of a basketball.
Big Chicken will be open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The franchise will be overseen by OVG Hospitality, the food and beverage division of Oak View Group, along with Brûlée Catering, its local catering arm.
"Philadelphia's Comcast Center is a dynamic epicenter for gourmet on-the-go and world-class fine dining," said Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. "We are thrilled to bring big flavor, big food, and big fun to the City of Brotherly Love."
"OVG Hospitality has a long-standing partnership with the Big Chicken team," said Ken Gaber, president of OVG. "Their delicious chicken sandwiches are already available at several OVG-managed arenas across the nation... We're excited to introduce Philadelphians to Big Chicken and hope they come with a big appetite."
Shaq is widely known as one of the NBA's most prominent investors, repeatedly saying that he'll only put his name behind brands that he personally uses and would recommend. In the restaurant world, he's franchised Five Guys, Krispy Kreme, Auntie Anne's and Papa Johns since retiring from his 19-year basketball career in 2011.
"I heard Jeff Bezos say one time (that) he makes his investments based on if it's going to change people's lives," O'Neal told the Wall Street Journal in 2019. "Once I started doing that strategy, I think I probably quadrupled what I'm worth."
Big Chicken is Shaq's first restaurant venture that allowed him to partner with an ownership group and design his own menu. The opening of the business was the subject of a reality show on Facebook Watch in late 2018. Viewers voted on menu items and ingredients before the Las Vegas location opened its doors.
The chain has 18 other locations around the country, with spots in Kansas City, Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle and Las Vegas, as well as six sports arenas, an airport terminal and three Carnival Cruise ships. Its opening in the Concourse at Comcast Center places it alongside well-known culinary creatives like Jose Garces at Buena Onda and Marc Vetri at Pizzeria Salvy.
Big Chicken is one of several chicken spots that have popped up in Philly over the last several months, including the Louisiana-based Raising Cane's and the Los Angeles-based Dave's Hot Chicken. Love & Honey, the fried chicken restaurant in Northern Liberties, announced plans to begin franchising earlier this year.