This 36-Year-Old Black CEO Sold $2.3M in Philly Cheesesteaks in Atlanta in 2022

Derrick Hayes, a 36-year-old Philadelphia native and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, sold over $2.3 million in Philly cheesesteaks in Atlanta alone last year. He owns five restaurants in the neighborhood and is now on a quest to expand his popular sandwiches across the country, with the goal of opening 100 franchise stores 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 began the franchise process, over a decade after launching his company. In 2014, he created Big Dave’s Water Ice, a dessert shop in a Georgia service station named after his late father, who inspired his entrepreneurial zeal. When he was having trouble selling frozen sweets, he decided to try cheesesteaks.

Hayes, like Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, had a rocky start, but he got his big break when rapper and TV host Eve, a fellow Philadelphian, tried his cheesesteak. Eve gushed about it on social media, instantly boosting his business.

Hayes opened his flagship store in downtown Atlanta in August 2019. Unfortunately, the epidemic closed it down momentarily in March 2020, and it was also damaged during the social upheaval that followed George Floyd’s assassination. Pinky Cole, the founder of Slutty Vegan, a plant-based cuisine company, contacted out to give support during these trying times. Their business connection grew into romance, and they are now married with a thriving family.

Furthermore, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has had phenomenal growth, with his flagship Atlanta store alone producing over $2.3 million in revenue in the last year. The brand is growing in Georgia, with many locations, including three within Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There’s also one in Atlanta’s suburbs, and one is planned to open in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Hayes now wants to open Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in major cities around the country, and he’s looking for franchisees who share his vision. Hayes is initially looking for franchisees in the food industry, but he hopes to inspire others who have encountered legal troubles, do not have a college degree, or lack expertise to achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations.

“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.”

Written by PH

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