In a bold move to take his iconic cheesesteak brand to the next level, Derrick Hayes, the visionary founder, and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, is opening the doors to franchising. Hayes, who’s cheesesteak was rated among the “Top 10 Best Sandwiches” in the world, by World Food Champions, has a dream of spreading his culinary sensation from coast to coast.
Hayes has now started accepting franchise applications, marking a significant step toward realizing his goal of opening 100 franchise locations by the end of 2025.
Hayes, a native of West Philadelphia, is thrilled to introduce his brand to the world through franchising. “I’m a visionary…I’m a dreamer” says the 36-year-old entrepreneur. “Franchising has been on my mind for years, and now, with the right team in place, we’re fully equipped to support franchisees.”
Hayes has spent last 2 years preparing for the franchise launch by investing heavily in the organization’s leadership and supply chain. A pivotal choice in this process was hiring Jessie Bray as President of BDC Franchise, LLC, a franchising rm of the BIG DAVE’S CHEESESTEAKS brand and business model. Mr. Bray has almost three decades of restaurant experience and has led franchise training for more than 130 restaurants in over 30 countries. “We have spent the last 18 months preparing our support team, operational systems, and supply chain for franchise growth. Our vendors have been carefully selected due to their ability to grow with our domestic and future international franchise system.” The brand has also made significant investments in infrastructure and national distribution. They work with one of the world’s largest food distributors for various ingredients and inventory, and currently source their beef, chicken, and lamb products directly from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through an ISWA Halal Certified supplier.
As disclosed more fully in its 2023 Franchised Disclosure Document, one (1) of the brand’s affiliate locations generated an $3,555,129 in net sales over the past 18 months, with its second affiliate location generating $2,044,918 over that same period. The brand is on an expansion spree, with multiple locations across Georgia and multiple presences inside Mercedes Benz Stadium, home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. At the same time, a new affiliate location is set to open in Charlotte, NC, in Spring 2024.
Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has a humble beginning as Big Dave’s Water Ice in a gas station in Dunwoody, Georgia, in 2014. Named after Hayes’ late father, who instilled his passion for entrepreneurship, the brand started as an Italian ice joint but transitioned to cheesesteaks after initial struggles.
The turning point for Hayes came when rapper, actress, and TV host Eve – a fellow Philly native –, stopped by the non-traditional site to grab a cheesesteak. Her reaction and ringing endorsement on social media caused a surge in business and, in no small part, served as the catalyst for Hayes and Bray to take both the BDC brand and beloved menu items to the next level. his Philly-inspired brand. Hayes recalls the pivotal moment when Eve championed his cheesesteaks on social media, saying, “The real deal cheesesteak is in the South, he’s from Philly, and y’all make sure you support this brother. The next day I had a line out the door.”
The chain’s signature sandwich, “Dave’s Way,” is a homage to Derrick’s late father, featuring beef, chicken, or salmon cheesesteak with fried onions, fried mushrooms, American cheese, provolone cheese, and cheese whiz. Additionally, Big Dave’s is expanding its brand by offering Big Dave’s All-Purpose Spice on its website.
Hayes’ ultimate mission is to establish Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in major cities across the nation, and he’s seeking franchisees who share his vision. “I want to deal with people who care about people,” says Hayes. “The customer is never wrong; we stand on that. 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.”