Shaquille O’Neal’s fast-casual restaurant will be coming to Massachusetts

Restaurants

The basketball star’s first restaurant in the state will arrive in 2024.

Crispy chicken sandwiches from Big Chicken. Photo courtesy of Big Chicken

A chain of fast-casual restaurants from NBA legend and former Celtics player Shaquille O’Neal will be expanding to Massachusetts.

Big Chicken, O’Neal’s fried chicken sandwich concept specializing in updated versions of the star’s “home-cooked childhood favorites” will open twelve new locations across Massachusetts. The spots will be in areas such as Boston, Metro West, Cape Cod, and in the North Shore. Last October, Boston.com reported that one of these eateries will be in the Northshore Mall in Peabody, coming in 2024. The opening dates of the other restaurants are still unconfirmed, a spokesperson said. Two companies in the hospitality sector, Restaurant Brands International and JBMM Hospitality LLC, will separately be bringing the franchise to Massachusetts.


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“[Big Chicken] want[s] to grow this brand and make it nationwide,” said Barry Lattuca, managing member of JBMM Hospitality LLC. He added, “I think that Massachusetts is a very good market for this product. If you look at brands like Raising Cane’s and Chick-fil-A, they do quite a bit of business. We think there’s a space for us, as well.”

The restaurants primarily serve fried chicken sandwiches, with eclectic spins. One of these is the Shaq Attack, which comes with pepper jack cheese, jalapeño slaw, and spicy chipotle BBQ sauce. The Original Big Chicken comes with a special “Shaq sauce” and pickles. Meanwhile, sides like sweet potato waffle fries and Lucille’s Mac n’ Cheese are also offered. Shakes come in a few flavors, like the El Padrino Negro, which features chocolate chips and peanut butter, and ice cream sandwiches also make an appearance.

Big Chicken was launched in Las Vegas in 2018. There are 12 traditional restaurants and 300 locations in development across the country, in states such as Louisiana, Florida, Michigan, and Arkansas. The company has plans to expand overseas, as well, the spokesperson said.

Lattuca added that he believes O’Neal has been actively connected to the restaurants, something that not all celebrities do when they start businesses.

“It seems to me that [O’Neal] is very involved,” Lattuca said. “He’s not just taking a back seat and watching things happen. … He goes to the restaurants. He wants to get to know the franchisees. He wants to know everything about the business and do what he can to make it a success.”