Meet Derrick Hayes, a 36-year-old Philadelphia native and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, who sold over $2.3 million worth of Philly cheesesteaks in Atlanta just last year alone. He owns five restaurants in the area and is now on a mission to take his iconic sandwiches nationwide, aiming to open 100 franchise locations by 2025.
“I’m a visionary, I’m a dreamer.” Hayes told CNBC. “Franchising is something that I thought about years ago, but I didn’t have the experience or the team to do it.”
Hayes recently started the franchise process, nearly a decade since he started his business. In 2014, he opened a dessert shop at a gas station in Georgia called Big Dave’s Water Ice, which is named after his late father who ignited his entrepreneurial spirit. When he struggled with selling frozen treats, he decided to do cheesesteaks.
Hayes also had a challenging start with Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks but he got his big break when rapper and TV host Eve, a fellow Philadelphian, tried his cheesesteak. Eve raved about it on social media, boosting his business overnight.
In August 2019, Hayes opened his flagship store in downtown Atlanta. Unfortunately, the pandemic temporarily closed it in March 2020, and it was also damaged during the civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder. During these challenging times, Pinky Cole, founder of Slutty Vegan, a plant-based-food franchise, reached out to offer assistance. Their connection in business blossomed into romance, and they are now married with a growing family.
Moreover, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has seen remarkable growth, with his flagship Atlanta location generating over $2.3 million in revenue in the past year alone. The brand is expanding, with multiple locations in Georgia, including three inside Mercedes Benz Stadium. There’s also a location in suburban Atlanta, and one is set to open in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Now, Hayes wants to establish Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in major cities across the country, seeking franchisees who share his vision. Initially, Hayes is seeking franchisees in the food industry, but he aspires to inspire those who may have faced legal issues, lack a college degree, or lack experience to pursue their business dreams.
“I want to deal with people who care about people. The customer is never wrong, we stand on that,” Hayes says. “I want people to feel like it’s theirs. Big Dave’s is not just a restaurant; we stand for the community, for peace, and for culture.”
Learn more about Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks via its official website at BigDavesWay.com