KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A fast casual chicken restaurant founded by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is expanding to Knoxville with plans for 10 locations across the Volunteer State.
Big Chicken has signed a franchise agreement with Tennessee restaurateur Jim Richards to bring the business to Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga. Exactly when and where those restaurants will open has yet to be announced.
Shaq’s influence is reflected on the menu with chicken sandwiches bearing some of his nicknames, like ‘The Big Aristotle’ and ‘Shaq Attack.’ Big Chicken also offers a giant cookie they claim has the circumference of an NBA basketball — that would be about 29.5 inches.
“With four decades of restaurant industry experience under my belt, I know the importance of creating a ‘wow’ experience for customers,” said Richards. “The food, service and overall experience at Big Chicken are truly unmatched and as someone who’s lived in the area for over 40 years, I’m confident we’ll become a quick hit for folks in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.”
Richards owns and operates 13 Five Guys restaurants in Tennessee and North Georgia.
It won’t be the only celebrity-affiliated restaurants in East Tennessee. Guy Fieri’s Downtown Flavortown opened at the Mountain Mile in Pigeon Forge in June and his Chicken Guy! restaurant opened in Gatlinburg last year.
Walk-On’s Bistreaux, a sports bar and restaurant chain co-owned by NFL star Drew Brees, opened a location near Knoxville’s West Town Mall in 2020.
The Big Chicken restaurant chain was founded in 2018 and has recently announced development plans for more than 150 locations across several states. Big Chicken can also be found in major sports arenas like the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and UBS Arena in New York.
“Jim’s extensive experience in restaurant ownership is extremely impressive and his excitement about the business is infectious,” says Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern. “Nashville is a prime market and one we’ve been excited to expand into and Knoxville and Chattanooga are incredible college town markets that we’re excited to enter as well. We look forward to supporting Jim and his team as they introduce Music City and Eastern Tennessee to BIG flavor, BIG food and BIG fun!”