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How to Start a Cheesesteak Business

Starting a cheesesteak business is a fun, rewarding way to deliver a delicious, popular food

If you’re reading this, that’s because you are considering the ways to start a cheesesteak business. That’s probably because you already know cheesesteak is just one of those food products that people inexplicably begin to crave whenever the name crosses their mind.

Over the past few years, more Americans turned to dining out for at least one meal a day than ever before. That translates to a lot of pizzas, burgers, and fried chicken. Opening a cheesesteak business makes a lot of sense in the crowded QSR and fast casual space. In fact, cheesesteak is one of the most underserved segments of the market.

As more and more Americans return to dining out regularly, now is a great time to start a cheesesteak business. But there are a lot of questions you need answers to before you take that leap.

If you’re considering opening a restaurant, QSR or otherwise, you should consider making cheesesteak the anchor of your menu. Here are all the information and steps to take you’ll need when starting your cheesesteak business.

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What is cheesesteak and where did it come from?

When it comes to the foods we eat, sometimes we’re as connected to the history and culture of the dish as we are the flavor itself. Think pizza, from Italy, or sushi from Japan. Philly Cheesesteak is one of those cuisines, but it’s uniquely American.

While the exact origins of this delicious delicacy are hotly debated, everyone agrees on the key points: Cheesesteak originated sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s in Philadelphia. At first, it was a popular street food, but that quickly changed as more and more restaurateurs in the city chose to add the city’s signature dish to their menus.

It seems the people of Philadelphia couldn’t get enough of the frizzled beef, bell pepper, onions, and rich, creamy provolone cheese–the most common ingredients in a cheesesteak sandwich. Today, the sandwich has diversified, with dozens of variations and ingredients now common. But cheesesteaks remain synonymous with Philadelphia.

Over the years, the Philly cheesesteak spread across the country. Today, it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of the QSR market, and franchise opportunities like Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak are raising the bar on this American staple.

Now is the perfect time to start a cheesesteak business

In 2019, Americans consumed almost $240 billion in fast food. And while the pandemic threw the QSR industry for a loop, those restaurants quickly rebounded. After all, most QSR restaurants were already set up for 50% or more of their customers to be carryout.

As the economy reopens and people begin to venture out, they’ve had their fill of pizza and burgers. They’re looking for something familiar but different. That’s where cheesesteak comes in.

So how do you get started serving deliciously dripping Philly cheesesteak sandwiches? Here are a few of the steps you’ll need to take when starting a cheesesteak business.

Six steps to starting a cheesesteak business

1. Choose the right location: Choosing the right location can make or break your business before you ever open the door. You have to weigh the costs against potential guests. You may want to work with a commercial real estate agent to assess potential sites. Also, consider reaching out to the local Chamber of Commerce or economic development agency.

Pro Tip: The complexity of site selection is just one of the reasons many entrepreneurs choose to purchase a franchise such as Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak. Franchise systems have staff who are highly qualified to help you choose the perfect location.

2. Create a compelling brand: Opening any restaurant requires visible and exciting branding. That’s more than just a catch name people remember and a logo. It’s quality food photography, advertising, menus for dine-in and take-out, a website. You may want to enlist a marketing company instead of going it alone. Remember, marketing is how people get to know your business before they ever visit it.

3. Create a great menu: Customers show up because they saw your ads or heard about you on Facebook. They come back because they like the food. Your menu needs to include enough cheesesteak deliciousness that they can’t get enough of it. That’ll mean choosing quality ingredients and developing a unique variety to keep them coming back again and again. Without a diverse menu of quality foods, chances are you’ll not see a lot of repeat business.

4. Building your restaurant takes time and money: You have the location and a compelling brand. Now you have to build your restaurant. Choose a contractor who understands the complexities of restaurant construction and knows restaurant equipment. Because restaurants like your new cheesesteak business are highly regulated, make sure your contractor understands the laws and health codes. Rebuilding a restaurant that doesn’t comply with the rules is a costly mistake, and it’s one you can avoid.

5. Hire and train the staff: Your location is ready to open and the kitchen is all hooked up. Now, you have to hire and train the staff on the art of the cheesesteak sandwich. Working with local staffing agencies, you may be able to find qualified kitchen personnel. Before you start training them, you’ll need to plan and create the materials they need to be successful. This is a challenge for many small businesses, and it’s one where many restaurants stumble. Effective training programs are another reason you should consider purchasing a cheesesteak franchise like Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak. Franchise companies have taken the guesswork out of new hire training.

6. Throw a great Grand Opening: When you’re budgeting your restaurant, make sure you save a little for the big, Grand Opening! Balloons and ribbon aren’t free, after all. Work with your local Chamber of Commerce and economic development agency to get the word out to local media. Also, make sure to invite your friends and families. A big crowd draws a big crowd.

Pro Tip: Franchise companies employ marketing and public relations professionals who specialize in creating buzz around new businesses. Starting a cheesesteak franchise with Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak is one way to make sure your grand opening is the biggest on the block.

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Why you should consider a franchise when you start a cheesesteak business

Franchise systems have invested a lot of time and money to build effective brands, create the marketing campaign, and develop a menu that customers love. These are all steps you have to take when opening a cheesesteak business from scratch, but they’ve perfected them already.

Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak is a popular and growing brand in the QSR space. Our customers know us for our delicious, authentic flavors and fun, vibrant restaurants. At the same time, our franchise owners know they have the support of a network of franchisees and a franchise company that is there to help them chart a course to growth.

When you start a cheesesteak business with Charley’s, you’re not going it alone. Our franchise team provides you with a step-by-step guide to opening your new cheesesteak business, and we’re here to help you every step of the way, from choosing a location to cutting the ribbon.

To find out more about Charley’s Philly Cheesesteak franchise, download our free, Franchise Information Report. Or contact one of our franchise sales consultants to get started today.