Beloved CEO who escaped jail time expands his famed cheesesteaks to first out-of-state location

Derrick Hayes is the founder of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, one of the fastest-growing businesses in Atlanta, Georgia, that makes cheesesteaks. The West Philadephia native named the restaurant after his father to honor him after he passed away. Honoring his father was the least he could do for making him who he is today.

Hayes however learned how to cook by spending time in the kitchen with his grandfather growing up as a kid. He subsequently learned how to prepare dishes and create spices on his own, culminating in his undying love for the food industry.

However, it was not until he moved to Atlanta and tried the city’s version of a Philly cheesesteak that he knew the path to take to “bring that real deal to Atlanta.”

Since then, locals and scores of celebrities have been to his restaurant’s locations. Seven years ago, rapper and actress Eve visited Hayes’ 700-square-foot Shell gas station location to enjoy his cheesesteak while filming a project in Atlanta. The restaurant became a center of attraction after she posted a picture of the sandwich on social media.

In 2023, the company pivoted to a franchise model in a bid to further capitalize on its success. Hayes wants to open 100 franchise locations by the end of 2025 and he has begun accepting official applications to purchase a Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks franchise. According to him, franchising is something that has always been part of his vision and the time was now rife.

Data from the International Franchise Association shows that only 8% of franchise owners are Black. What is more, the data also shows that black franchisees have revenues 220% higher than independent Black-owned businesses on average.

Hayes said he is exploring the franchisee model to help black entrepreneurs escape hurdles, including those who do not have a college degree or lack the experience to follow their dreams of owning a business.

Ten restaurants are set to form across central Florida as former PepsiCo executive Derek Lewis signed a franchise agreement with Hayes in January 2024.

Now the brand is celebrating its first out-of-state location in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Hayes recently held a grand opening for the community to try his famed cheesesteaks.

“From a humble gas station start to expanding across state lines, the journey of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Hayes said in a news release. “As we open our first out-of-state location in Queen City, I’m filled with a sense of disbelief and immense pride. This milestone is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and unwavering belief that has propelled us forward. The road ahead is paved with endless possibilities, and I’m excited to continue writing the next chapter of our story.”

City residents will gain 30 jobs as Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks opens. On May 11, about 500 people attended the new location’s grand opening to celebrate the business.

Hayes did not have a rosy upbringing. He was raised in an impoverished neighborhood and found himself in a life of crime to provide for himself. He was arrested for selling drugs and appeared in court. However, his case was dismissed because the detective who intended to testify against him at his trial did not show up. Hayes also attributes this to his sister’s continuous prayers for him.

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik is a journalist with years of experience in digital media. He loves football and tennis.

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