Shaquille O'Neal's chicken restaurant set to open first Houston location – Houston Chronicle

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Houston is a few steps closer to the opening of the first of many Big Chicken restaurants, the Shaquille O’Neal-owned fast-casual chicken concept that is primed to take Texas by storm.
The city’s first franchise location at 9660 Westheimer at South Gessner (Woodlake Square Shopping Center) is expected to open December or early January, followed by an ambitious rollout in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The first Houston Big Chicken is among eight in the planning stages in Greater Houston, part of a 50+ rollout over the next seven years in the state’s four largest metro areas from Texas franchise owners Fazil Malik, Frank Malik and Noordin Jhaver.
“I’m super excited about this brand and this opportunity,” said Fazil Malik. “I’m hoping we go way beyond 50.”
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The Houston-based franchise partners believe Texas is ready to embrace Big Chicken, a relatively new restaurant brand founded in 2018 by NBA Hall of Famer O’Neal. Big Chicken has big plans with franchise agreements to open in Texas, Central Oklahoma, Chicago, Arizona, Nashville, Florida, and the Seattle and Los Angeles areas. The first Texas location of Big Chicken opened in April at the Moody Center in Austin.
As the restaurant industry rebounds from the pandemic, Big Chicken is one of the hot players on the fast-casual market.
“Restaurants in Texas are coming back with a vengeance,” Fazil Malik said. “People are trending toward new and exciting brands and food concepts.”
Malik said the brand makes a good fit in Texas because of the popularity of fried chicken sandwiches like those the restaurant offers, such as Uncle Jerome (Nashville hot, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise), the Big & Sloppy (stuffed with macaroni and cheese and crispy onions), Big Aristotle (muenster cheese, fried onions and Memphis barbecue sauce), and the Shaq Attack (pepper jack cheese, jalapeño slaw and spicy chipotle barbecue sauce). The sandwiches are made with chicken breast, although chicken tenders and chicken nuggets also are on the menu as well as side dishes including Cheez-It-crusted macaroni and cheese.
“The food speaks for itself. The chicken breast for the sandwiches, the main engine, is the highest quality free-range and antibiotic-free,” Malik said. “Most chicken sandwiches I’ve seen are made from chicken tenders. Once Texans taste this real chicken sandwich, they’ll be able to distinguish the difference and the distinction of this brand.”
The restaurants planned for Texas will be about 2,800 to 4,000 square feet in size. Some, including the first in Houston, will have full bar programs.
The partners have a shared history of businesses where customer service is key. Fazil Malik is the owner of Northwest Petroleum, a gas station and convenience company operating more than a dozen QMarts in the Houston area. He and Frank Malik own Skylark Construction, a retail and restaurant development and construction company. Jhaver is the owner of Dew Real Estate, a restaurant and real estate company; he also is the multi-unit operator of more than 50 Sonic restaurants.
The partners are keeping their fingers crossed that O’Neal will make an appearance with the first Houston restaurant opens.
Greg Morago writes about food for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Send him news tips at Hear him on our BBQ State of Mind podcast to learn about Houston and Texas barbecue culture.
Greg Morago was a features editor and reporter for The Hartford Courant for 25 years before joining the Houston Chronicle as food editor in 2009. He writes about food, restaurants, spirits, travel, fashion and beauty. He is a native Arizonan and member of the Pima tribe of the Gila River Indian Community.
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