Very few people can serve up smiles the way David Hunt does. As owner of four Michigan Big Boy restaurants in St. Johns, Mason, Stevensville and Bay City, he’s committed himself to a life of service – to his restaurants, to his community and to his family.
Big Boy restaurants are a staple in many communities, with options for everyone and a comfortable atmosphere; they are always a fan favorite. But for Hunt, Big Boy is more than his favorite restaurant. It’s been a key part of each phase of his life.
“My mother was pregnant with me when she started working at Big Boy, and I started working as a car hop for Big Boy when I was 14,” Hunt said. “Over the years, I worked as a cook, a server, a shift manager, an assistant manager, a general manager, an area supervisor and all the way on up. It was a great career with a ton of growth and wonderful opportunities. Timing was a big part of it, but I think my passion for this was even bigger.”
Hunt attended Wayne State University and continued to follow his passion, which led to a successful career. After spending 30 years with Elias Brothers, and craving more time with his family, Hunt left his position as vice president of operations and decided to take the leap of faith to venture out on his own. He started his journey with a single location, which swiftly grew to the four he owns and oversees today.
“I split my time between the locations, and I still work the restaurants every day. I am very passionate about what I do, and I enjoy what I do. It’s a great brand and great company, but what I enjoy most are my customers and my employees,” Hunt said. “You have to be half-crazy to enjoy this life, but I enjoy every minute.”
Hunt loves to give back, he starts right inside his restaurants when shares his experiences in hopes of passing on his enthusiasm to the next generation.
“What I really enjoy is working with the young people on my team, to help them develop in their career,” Hunt said. “For many, it’s a first job, and it’s very rewarding to watch them grow and become more confident. I like to mentor them. I like to think they’ll do the same someday.”
It’s not just at Big Boy where Hunt share’s his passion. He also shares it with the community. Hunt is an invested community partner and makes time to serve on numerous boards and committees.
“The pillars in my life are family, friends, faith and philanthropy. I choose to get involved, and I encourage others to do the same,” Hunt said.
Family always comes first for Hunt. Big Boy played a large part in Hunt’s childhood and his career, but he also met the love of his life there.and has also shared his passion for the industry with his two sons as they grew up.
“My wife and I met at Big Boy in 1974. She’s been my partner in life and in businesses ever since,” Hunt said. “Both my boys started working here when they were 14, too, and now I am proud to say they both have their MBA. They have their own careers now, but they are still part of the family business. I love that I got to share this with them.”
Hunt’s perspective on fatherhood is unique. Raised by a single mother, he credits his mom with always being there, and he has worked hard throughout his career to be there to share in the important moments with his two sons. Although his career takes him all over the place, he always finds time to make memories happen.
“I think it is important to be part of your kids’ lives, and I don’t know how she (mom) did what she did, but I am glad she did it,” Hunt said. “I’ve tried to be there and spend time with my boys and make it count.”
Hunt’s sons, Patrick and David, and their wives – Shelley and Kimberly, respectively – have followed suit to become amazing dads, making Hunt a proud grandfather of four: Wyatt, 14; Noah, 11; Bryn, 3; and Greyson, 2.
“I can be having the worst day ever, and my wife and one of the kids will FaceTime me, and all they have to say is ‘papa,’ and it all changes. It’s just amazing how awesome they are. They are always happy to see you,” Hunt said. “There is nothing like it.”
Hunt noted that he is proud of a lot of things – grandkids included – but he’s exceptionally proud of his boys and their commitment to family.
“Watching them interact with their kids, and how they help out – they are very involved, and it’s wonderful to see,” Hunt said. “I am very proud of the men they are and the fathers they have become.”
Hunt has loved every adventure his life has taken him on. Not all of them have been easy, but every single one was worth it. Being a husband, father and grandfather have been his favorite roles, and he would share that with any dad.
“My sons and I spend plenty of time laughing. We enjoy each other’s company, and I think that is awesome,” Hunt said. “My favorite part of being a dad has been setting an example for them. Teaching them to live a faith-filled life and just being there to listen. I think being that is one of the most important things, and I love that I still get to be there for them, even now.”