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Founder Derrick Hayes Brings West Philly Flavor to Charlotte with Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks


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Charlotte, NC – Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, an institution famous for its mouthwatering cheesesteaks, is set to open its first out-of-state location in Charlotte, NC. This marks a significant milestone for Derrick Hayes, the founder and CEO, as the company expands beyond its roots in Atlanta. The grand opening, scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 2024, from 12:00pm to 5:00pm, will be an event for the entire community.

Derrick Hayes, a visionary culinary entrepreneur, is thrilled to introduce Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks to Charlotte. “Opening our first location outside of Atlanta is a dream come true,” says Hayes. “We are excited to share our famous cheesesteaks with the vibrant and diverse community of Charlotte.”

The grand opening will be a festive occasion with special guests, activities for kids, and initiatives aimed at engaging the community. Representatives from various local organizations, including HBCUs, the mayor’s office, and sports teams, will be in attendance.

The new Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks location in Charlotte, located at 8552 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28213, promises to deliver the same quality, flavor, and community engagement that has made the brand famous.

Credit: William Sterling

About Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks:

Derrick Hayes, born and raised in West Philadelphia, discovered his passion for cooking while spending time in the kitchen with his grandfather. Inspired by his upbringing and a desire to share the flavors of West Philly, Hayes founded Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in Atlanta. Named after his late father, the original location gained fame when actress Eve visited for a taste of home while filming in Atlanta.

Today, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has expanded to multiple locations in Georgia and is known not only for its delicious food but also for its community engagement. Hayes is actively involved in philanthropic initiatives, including The David and Derrick Hayes Foundation and the David & Derrick Hayes College Fund, which support cancer research and provide scholarships to deserving students.

Derrick Hayes’ commitment to excellence and community has earned him recognition from prestigious publications and platforms like Forbes, Good Morning America, and Essence Magazine.

Q&A with Derrick Hayes, Founder and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks:

What inspired you to bring your renowned establishment to Charlotte, NC, for its first out-of-state expansion? Expanding to Charlotte, NC, was a natural step in our journey. Charlotte’s vibrant culinary scene and diverse community perfectly align with our mission to bring authentic, mouthwatering cheesesteaks to new markets. We saw an opportunity to introduce our unique flavors and hospitality to local Charlotte residents who share our passion for great food.

Opening a new location is a significant milestone. What factors contributed to your decision to choose Charlotte as the site for expansion? Several factors influenced our decision to choose Charlotte for our first out-of-state expansion. The city’s booming economy, growing population, and reputation as a foodie destination made it an attractive choice. We conducted extensive market research and received overwhelming support from locals who expressed excitement after we had a pop-up with our food truck. We had about 600 people the first day.

You’ve been hailed as the “Colonel Sanders of Cheesesteaks” by Forbes Magazine. How does it feel to receive such recognition for your culinary expertise and business acumen? Being dubbed the “Colonel Sanders of Cheesesteaks” by Forbes is truly humbling and a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team. Receiving recognition for our culinary expertise and business acumen motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of excellence in everything we do.

Community engagement is a cornerstone of your brand. Could you tell us more about the initiatives you have planned for the grand opening event in Charlotte? Community engagement is at the heart of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. We have exciting initiatives planned for the grand opening event in Charlotte to connect with the local community, from partnering with local officials, media, schools, and residents, to cash prizes and offering exclusive food promotions. We aim to create a memorable experience for everyone who attends.

From special guests to representatives from various organizations, the grand opening promises to be a vibrant celebration. What can attendees expect from this event? Attendees can expect a family-friendly block party atmosphere filled with delicious food, engaging entertainment, and opportunities to connect with fellow cheesesteak enthusiasts. We’ll have giveaways and plenty of surprises to make the grand opening a celebration to remember.

Could you share some insights into how your upbringing and culinary journey led to the creation of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks? My upbringing and culinary journey have played a significant role in shaping Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. Growing up in Philadelphia, I developed a deep appreciation for the art of cheesesteak-making, which inspired me to perfect my craft. Each recipe and cooking technique we use at Big Dave’s reflects my passion for authenticity and quality ingredients. The secret is my special seasoning made of 13 spices, which is a family recipe put together. I named my brand after my father, and seeing him pass away in front of my face, I made a promise that I would make sure his name would live on forever. Even before he died, I told him I would break the generational gap. Coming down to Atlanta, I realized there weren’t any authentic cheesesteaks. The community in Atlanta calls them “Philly’s”, which isn’t authentic to Philadelphia. I had to share a piece of where I’m from with the community I’ve grown to love.

Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has a strong philanthropic presence through initiatives like The David and Derrick Hayes Foundation. How do you balance business success with giving back to the community? Balancing business success with giving back to the community is a core value of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. We’re able to make a positive impact on the lives of others while pursuing our entrepreneurial goals by hiring within our communities and supporting other small businesses, such as donating $40k to a black-owned restaurant based in NY during Good Morning America. It’s about finding a harmonious balance between profitability and social responsibility, and we’re proud to prioritize both.

With multiple locations and even a food truck, what challenges have you faced in scaling your business while maintaining quality and consistency? Scaling our business while maintaining quality and consistency has certainly posed its challenges. From hiring and training staff to sourcing ingredients and streamlining operations, we’ve had to continuously adapt and innovate to meet the demands of growth. However, our commitment to excellence ensures that every Big Dave’s Cheesesteak, whether from a brick-and-mortar location or our food truck, lives up to our customers’ expectations.

You’ve been recognized by numerous publications and platforms, including Forbes and Good Morning America. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry? To aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry, I would advise them to stay true to their passion, never compromise on quality, and always prioritize customer satisfaction. Building a successful culinary business requires dedication, resilience, and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures. Surround yourself with a talented team, embrace innovation, and never lose sight of your vision.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, both in Charlotte and beyond? Looking ahead, our goals and aspirations for Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks are ambitious yet straightforward. We aim to continue expanding our presence in Charlotte and beyond, introducing more people to the unmatched flavors of our cheesesteaks while maintaining the integrity and authenticity that define our brand. We are currently franchising and have 15 locations currently in the works to open in addition to this weekend’s grand opening. Whether it’s through new locations, innovative menu offerings, or community partnerships, we’re committed to sharing the love of cheesesteaks with the world.

Derrick Hayes and his team are filled with excitement and anticipation. With a commitment to quality, community engagement, and authenticity, they are ready to introduce Charlotte residents to the unforgettable flavors of their famous cheesesteaks. As the celebration unfolds, it’s not just about food; it’s about bringing people together, fostering connections, and creating lasting memories. And as Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks continues to expand, Derrick Hayes remains dedicated to sharing the love of cheesesteaks with communities far and wide.

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