How McAlister’s Deli® Combines a Strong Menu and Southern-Style Hospitality to Stand Out in the Fast Casual Space

With over 380 restaurants in 28 states, McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve. 

At this point, industry experts, business owners and customers alike know that the fast-casual segment is dominating the restaurant franchise industry. In fact, a recent report released by Technavio revealed the fast casual restaurant market is expected to reach a whopping $66.87 billion by 2020. And while the proliferation of fast casual restaurants is good news for customers hungry for something more than the lackluster fast-food experience, it’s created a lot of competition in a marketplace that’s become increasingly crowded. Fortunately, for brands like McAlister’s Deli®, standing out in a sea of fast casual restaurants comes down to one simple formula—whether it’s the menu, the hospitality or the atmosphere, it’s crucial to always offer up a little something extra for guests.

Founded in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi, McAlister’s Deli® has a long history of raising the bar in the fast casual segment. And today, with over 380 restaurants in 28 states, it’s clear that McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve. According to Robert Dimson, the vice president of marketing, this starts with McAlister’s simple, yet elevated, menu. From quality sandwiches and spuds, to soups, salads and desserts, McAlister’s Deli® doesn’t confine itself to a specific label—it’s about serving up a strong and varied menu, and doing it well with only the freshest ingredients.

“Take one look at our menu, and it’s clear that we pride ourselves on offering an extensive menu—our variety is truly second to none,” Dimson said. “The breadth of our menu has become an asset—it eliminates the ‘veto vote’ because there’s something for everyone to enjoy and feel satisfied by.”

And yet, despite McAlister’s dedication to simplicity, the brand embraces innovation, too. Whether it’s introducing new limited time offers, or tweaking and enhancing familiar products, McAlister’s Deli® has found a way to optimize its core without veering off track from what has long made the brand great.

“We really do take pride in the fact that our food is simple, yet elevated. Looking at our menu through that lens, we’ve been able to narrow our focus while simultaneously remaining open minded. It’s helped stay within those guard rails to ensure that everything we offer is something we’re proud of,” Dimson added.

McAlister’s emphasis on genuine hospitality has helped the brand stand out, too. The brand goes out of its way to take care of its guests, and it’s important that within each restaurant, families feel at home the second they walk through the doors.

“People appreciate hospitality—they notice when you go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable,” Dimson added. “Whether you’re in the South, the Midwest or up North, it’s about great service and great atmosphere for us. It’s about giving people a place to connect over great food alongside friends and family.”

According to Dimson, McAlister’s third key differentiator is in the fact that its staff will always go the extra mile to make sure guests are leaving the restaurant with a smile on their faces. Other major competitors utilize a model that has customers placing their order and picking up their own meal. McAlister’s Deli®, on the other hand, believes that it’s important to actually serve people and bring food straight to their tables.

“It’s a very humble approach. It’s all about making sure that everything is going well for our guests. This means checking in with them to see if there’s anything they need—it’s heartfelt and genuine,” Dimson said. “These are all things that you don’t expect from a fast casual brand. And in the end, it’s what ultimately sets us apart in this competitive industry. We’re an uplifting brand that provides a community gathering place where genuine hospitality and real, handcrafted food come together to create craveable connections.”

Strong Growth Potential and Unique Business Model Sets McAlister’s Deli® Apart in the Fast Casual Segment of the Franchising Industry

From its focus on hospitality to its simple business model, the brand provides multi-unit franchisees with a series of strong competitive advantages.

Demand in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry is on the rise. While restaurant sales as a whole are stagnant, fast casual chains are experiencing growth. In fact, the NPD Group is predicting that fast casual brands will be one of the few to see an increase in traffic in 2017. That means that in order to capitalize on that strong development potential, it’s more important for concepts to attract both consumers and prospective business owners than ever before. And when it comes to being positioned as the fast casual brand to beat, there’s one franchising opportunity that consistently stands out from the crowd: McAlister’s Deli®.

Founded in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi, McAlister’s Deli® has a long history of raising the bar in the fast casual segment. The brand isn’t confined to one specific label—by serving top quality sandwiches, spuds, soups, salads, desserts and McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea™, the brand is able to tap into a variety of categories that result in multiple revenue streams for its business owners. But its comprehensive menu isn’t the only thing that differentiates McAlister’s Deli® from the competition.

The brand is also known to loyal customers across the country for its commitment to hospitality. Exceptional customer service is at the core of every McAlister’s Deli® location—from providing a full-service dining experience to ensuring that meals are served with a smile, the brand goes above and beyond to create a family friendly environment and positive atmosphere. That focus on making every customer experience a great one has established a unique brand culture that can’t be found anywhere else.

“McAlister’s Deli® is far from a traditional deli or sub shop. In addition to the fact that our menu goes beyond sandwiches, every item that we served is home-made and delivered to our customers with a smile. That level of service is something that’s missing from other brands in the fast casual industry, and it’s continuing to help our franchisees bring in more customers,” said Jeff Sturgis, Vice President of Franchise Development of McAlister’s Deli®. “We’ve created a warm, comfortable and inviting environment that families want to experience on a regular basis. Our goal is to ensure that our customers—and franchisees—are always happy.”

With over 380 restaurants in 28 states, it’s clear that McAlister’s Deli® has a system of local owners who are thriving in their local communities. In order to achieve that high level of franchisee satisfaction, the brand supports its owners throughout the entire franchising process. McAlister’s corporate team is in it together with its franchisees—from hands-on, immersive franchisee training that includes on-the-job experience in an existing McAlister’s Deli® restaurant to periodic visits from the brand’s franchise business consultants, the brand is actively involved in setting its local owners up for success. And with a comprehensive, system-wide approach to advertising, marketing and promotions, McAlister’s Deli® is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to spread the word about the brand’s unique concept.

“If you’re interested in franchising, you should take a very serious look at McAlister’s Deli®. One, obviously, it’s financially successful. Two, I think it’s a brand that has growth opportunities from a geography standpoint. Three, I think within our segment we’re really having fast paced growth which is exciting,” said Kelly Saxton of the Saxton Group, which owns over 60 McAlister’s Deli® locations across four different states. “I think one important thing that sets McAlister’s Deli® apart today in how the system’s operated today is that senior management is listening to franchisees.”

By working with franchisees to improve its system, McAlister’s Deli® is positioned for long-term success. The brand isn’t afraid to make positive changes—locations with the right real estate capability are now introducing a pick-up window, for example, to reach customers who want to enjoy McAlister’s Deli® on the go. The brand is also focusing on developing in areas where it knows its local owners can thrive, like college campuses and end-cap store locations.

Beyond those enhancements, McAlister’s Deli® also offers prospective business owners a simple business model at its core. The brand already has an existing supply chain in place, giving franchisees the opportunity to take advantage of buying simple products for a decreased price. McAlister’s Deli® locations also don’t require equipment like grills or fryers, making the build out process more affordable and timely while local owners are getting their businesses of the ground.

Store build outs typically take between 75 and 90 days, giving franchisees the ability to hit the ground running as soon as their franchise agreement is signed. And local owners who follow McAlister’s proven system are bringing in customers at a more rapid pace—new restaurants are opening at the system average or better in terms of performance.

“Our system is designed to help our franchisees be profitable. Between our simple business model and established best practices, our local owners are automatically put in a position to make the most of the McAlister’s business ownership opportunity,” Sturgis said.

That business opportunity is expected to grow throughout 2017. With its sights set on development in key target markets like Tampa, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; Syracuse, New York and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, McAlister’s Deli® is planning to open more than 40 new restaurants this year, including seven that have already opened  since the beginning of 2017.

To make those development goals a reality, McAlister’s Deli® is specifically looking to partner with experienced restaurateurs who are pursuing multi-unit ownership. Prospective franchisees need to have a net worth of $1.5 million, with $750,000 in liquid assets. And while total investment costs range depending on real estate, McAlister’s Deli® has a flat franchise fee of $35,000 per location.

“There’s no doubt that it’s an exciting time to be a part of the McAlister’s Deli® brand. For three years, we’ve had the honor of achieving certification as a World-Class Franchisor. We’re confident that we’re going to experience rapid growth in 2017, and we’re excited to partner with passionate and dedicated franchisees to make it happen,” said Sturgis. “McAlister’s Deli® offers a one of a kind business ownership opportunity, and we’re excited to see new owners make the system their own and thrive in the months and years to come.”

McAlister’s Deli® Builds on its Strong Growth Potential and Southern Roots by Actively Targeting Tampa, Florida for Expansion

The leading fast casual franchise is leveraging its focus on hospitality and brand awareness across the Southeast to expand its reach in the key development market.

For nearly 30 years, McAlister’s Deli® has been setting the standard for excellence in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. The brand goes above and beyond that of a traditional sandwich shop—by serving top quality salads, soups, spuds, desserts and McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea™ in addition to hand-crafted, made to order sandwiches, the brand is able to tap into a broader customer base that in turn boosts its franchisees’ bottom lines. And now, that one of a kind business ownership opportunity is set to reach even more entrepreneurs in Tampa, Florida.

McAlister’s Deli® is actively targeting the key market for development as it prepares for a record breaking year in terms of franchise growth and expansion. With more than 380 restaurants successfully up and running in 28 different states—including Florida—it’s clear that the brand’s proven system works in a variety of different communities. And between its heavy focus on genuine hospitality and strong brand awareness across the entire Southeastern region of the U.S., McAlister’s Deli® is positioned for rapid growth in Tampa.

“Tampa is a natural next step for the McAlister’s Deli® brand as we continue to break into new markets across the country. Over the last 2 years, we have opened 7 restaurants across Florida with 4 more slated for 2017. Customers in the area are already familiar with the brand, and they’re craving a better alternative to traditional fast casual restaurants that require them to take a number and wait for someone to yell their name,” said Jeff Sturgis, Vice President of Franchise Development of McAlister’s Deli®. “That’s where McAlister’s Deli® shines. We work to elevate that dining experience for every customer that walks through our doors by staying true to our Southern roots. At the end of the day, we’re a down-home brand that serves great food in an unrivaled environment.”

That unique positioning within the fast casual industry is what makes McAlister’s Deli® stand out from the competition as it continues to expand. The brand offers prospective multi-unit owners the opportunity to capitalize on its loyal customer base, which is evident in the Tampa area. Franchisees in the area will also have a competitive advantage when it comes to getting their restaurants off the ground because of the brand’s strong support system—McAlister’s Deli® goes the extra mile to set its owners up for success.

Not only does the brand offer its franchisees hands-on training ahead of their first grand opening, it ensures that its franchise consultants make in-person visits to stores once operations are fully under way. Every member of McAlister’s Deli® corporate team also makes it a priority to be accessible to franchisees and listen to what they have to say.

“Our passionate franchisees are ultimately the driving force behind our continued success. That’s why having a strong support system is so important to us—we’re here to help our local owners reach their full potential as entrepreneurs,” said Sturgis. “That support system is even stronger in cities like Tampa because we already have a strong presence in the area. Franchisees who sign on to develop the brand there can rely on other owners for help and guidance who have been through the process and know the ropes.”

In addition to offering extensive corporate support, McAlister’s Deli® also offers prospective franchisees the opportunity to be a part of a rapidly growing brand at an affordable rate. With startup costs ranging depending on specific real estate, McAlister’s Deli® has a flat franchise fee of $35,000 per location.

“Our business model is incredibly simple. By focusing on what we do best and eliminating the need for major restaurant equipment like fryers and grills, we give prospective business owners the opportunity to grow alongside the booming fast casual industry without breaking the bank,” said Sturgis. “That simplicity is present in everything that we do—at its core, the McAlister’s Deli® brand serves great food with exceptional customer service in a welcoming and comfortable environment. We’re looking forward to bringing our concept to more consumers in the Tampa area as we partner with more franchisees.”

If you’re interested in helping expand McAlister’s Deli®’s footprint in Florida, fill out the form. We’re excited to hear from you!

QSR Magazine: How FOCUS Brands® is Blazing a Path for the Future

With new tech-inspired digs, a collaborative mindset and combined resources, FOCUS Brands® is sprinting toward success. 

Over the past few years, FOCUS Brands®, whose portfolio includes Moe’s Southwest Grill®, McAlister’s Deli®, Schlotzsky’s®, Auntie Anne’s®, Cinnabon® and Carvel®, has emerged as a leader within the franchise industry.

This is due, in large part, to a series of changes the company has gone through over the years—changes that were spearheaded by CEO Steve DeSutter.

“Technology and other factors are going to change things, and however we think about change today, it’s going to come faster and harder than we’ve ever experienced before,” DeSutter said. “For us to be a real winner, we were going to have to do certain things that were going to take our very solid brands … to the next level or position them to be able to win in this rapidly changing environment. And that was going to mean change.”

One of these changes includes boosting the company’s digital presence. Today, all six brands have deep roots in various social media platforms. Beyond the standard notifications triggered by a user mentioning the brand or using its hashtag, FOCUS Brands® can identify brand advocates, answer questions that aren’t directed to the brand handles, and home in on opportunities for engagement that might otherwise be overlooked.

“Fans don’t expect us to be there, and then we engage them in a meaningful way,” says Paul Macaluso, president of McAlister’s Deli® and previously FOCUS Brands’® senior vice president of brand marketing strategy.

Click here to read the original article.

McAlister’s Deli® Climbs Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 List to No. 23

The award-winning fast-casual restaurant breaks into the top 25 for the first-time ever.

McAlister’s Deli®, a leading fast-casual restaurant chain best known for its Real Handcrafted Sandwiches, McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea™ and world class hospitality, today announced it has climbed 123 spots to No. 23 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 38th annual Franchise 500 ranking.

The magazine recognizes the role that big data, social media, cloud tools and powerful customer management systems have all played in dramatically changing the way franchise systems tackle operations, customer communication and franchisee education – all key factors in determining the Franchise 500 rankings. Additional factors that go into Entrepreneur’s evaluation include costs and fees, size and growth, support, brand strength, and financial strength and stability. All franchises are given a cumulative score based on more than 150 data points, and the 500 franchises with the highest cumulative scores become the Franchise 500 in ranking order.

“Being recognized as the No. 23 franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine is an astounding achievement,” said Paul Macaluso, President of McAlister’s Deli®. “We’re truly humbled and honored, and attribute our success as a brand in large part to our dedicated franchisees and loyal guests across the country. We’re looking forward to leading McAlister’s Deli® to continued growth and brand innovation.”

McAlister’s Deli® had a successful year of franchise growth in 2016 with significant system-wide sales and the opening of 33 new restaurants in existing markets and new markets, including Naples and Ft. Walton Beach, FL; Buffalo, NY; NW Indiana and Cleveland, OH.

“McAlister’s has become a top choice for some of the most successful multi-unit franchisees in the country,” said Jeff Sturgis, McAlister’s Deli® Vice President of Franchise Development. “We’re thrilled about the continued growth of our company, and we anticipate even stronger results in the next year.”

McAlister’s Deli® currently operates more than 380 restaurants in the U.S., across 28 states. The company has attracted a record number of franchise inquiries in recent years due to its quality leadership, healthy sales to investment ratio, and exceptional company performance. Could you be the next McAlister’s Deli® franchise owner? Fill out the form today.

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