McAlister Deli®’s Simple and Proven Business Model Helps First Time Franchisee Become a Successful Multi-Unit Owner

Jim Gillenwater Jr. has been growing alongside the McAlister’s Deli® brand since becoming a franchisee in Louisville, Kentucky back in 2003.

Jim Gillenwater Jr. and his wife enjoyed dining at their local McAlister’s Deli® as hungry customers. But it wasn’t until 2003—when they joined Bill and Lora Robertson, the brand’s existing franchisee in Louisville who opened two restaurants in 2001—that they realized the brand had the potential to become much more than their go-to fast casual spot.

“Before I became a McAlister’s Deli® franchisee, I fell in love with the concept as a customer. My wife and I always enjoyed the brand’s food, so when she suggested that I look into it as a business opportunity, I jumped at the chance,” said Gillenwater Jr. “The more I studied the business behind the McAlister’s brand, the more I realized that this concept has the potential to reach every type of demographic in the market. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, male or female or what budget you’re operating with, McAlister’s Deli® has something for everyone.”

To say that Gillenwater Jr. has been successful as a McAlister’s Deli® owner would be an understatement—after taking the leap and becoming a franchisee for the first time over a decade ago, the Gillenwaters and Robertsons now owns nine locations that are thriving in the Louisville, Kentucky area. They have even received numerous awards from the McAlister’s Deli® corporate team over the years at the brand’s annual banquet, including the Corporate Developer of the Year Award

Gillenwater Jr. credits that success to McAlister’s simple and proven franchise system. Their business was able to rapidly grow from one unit to nine without any prior experience as a restaurant owner, ultimately allowing him them to realize their potential as entrepreneurs.  And Gillenwater Jr. says they are not done growing alongside the brand yet—they are currently in the process of pursuing plans to open several more McAlister’s Deli® restaurants down the line.

“Franchisees like Jim and Bill perfectly exemplify the numerous opportunities for growth that McAlister’s Deli® has to offer. Even if you’ve never owned and operated a restaurant before, our strong support system and proven model can set you up for long-term success,” said Jeff Sturgis, vice president of franchise development for McAlister’s Deli®. “Our number one priority as a franchisor is making sure that our local owners are poised for growth, and we’re eager to continue this trend as we continue expanding across the country.”

The Louisville market isn’t the only one primed for growth in the U.S.—McAlister’s Deli® currently has its sights set on expanding in key areas like Tampa, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Cleveland, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And with more than 400 restaurants operating in a wide variety of communities, it’s clear that numerous franchisees are capitalizing on McAlister’s Deli®’s position at the forefront of the fast casual industry.

Between its top quality menu, fresh ingredients and McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea™, the brand is appealing to a large group of customers. And through its commitment to serving its products in a positive environment with exceptional customer service, McAlister’s Deli® is actively setting itself apart from the competition.

“Whenever I come across someone who has visited a McAlister’s Deli®, their reaction is enthusiastic. People don’t just like to visit us, they love the entire experience,” said Gillenwater Jr. “McAlister’s Deli® has given me all of the tools and resources that I need to be successful. Its business model is simple and easy to adapt to our market, which makes us excited about the possibilities for growth with the brand going forward.”

If you’re like Jim Gillenwater Jr. and looking for a franchise opportunity that you can be passionate about, fill out the form to get started.

How being part of FOCUS Brands® Gives McAlister’s Deli® Franchisees a Strong Competitive Advantage

By leveraging the FOCUS Brands® Supply Chain team, McAlister’s Deli® owners are able to save money while growing their businesses.

When it comes to raising the bar in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry, there’s one brand that stands apart from the rest: McAlister’s Deli®. Backed by its high quality and diverse menu, including McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea™, the brand has become a fan favorite across the country. In addition, because of the strong unit level performance, McAlister’s Deli® continues to attract experienced and savvy operators to further expand the fast casual concept into new markets.
Franchisees who enter McAlister’s Deli® franchise system gain access to a long list of benefits. From support throughout the grand opening process that includes real estate selection and marketing tactics to a strong network of more than 380 existing, successful restaurants, the brand’s local owners are able to rely on a corporate team of experts when getting their businesses off the ground. However, the competitive advantages of being a franchisee of McAlister’s Deli® do not stop there—the brand adds another layer of support to its system by being a part of FOCUS Brands®.

FOCUS Brands® is a leading developer of global, multi-channel, food service brands. In addition to McAlister’s Deli®, its portfolio includes Moe’s Southwest Grill®, Schlotzsky’s®, Auntie Anne’s®, Cinnabon® and Carvel®. One of the main areas of synergy for McAlister’s Deli® is in the supply chain needed to support all stores. The combination of these 6 brands provides FOCUS Brands® with considerable clout and leverage when working with the vendor and distribution marketplace.

“Instead of going to market as McAlister’s Deli® with 380 stores, we’re going into the vendor community as FOCUS Brands®, which works on behalf of 4,600 locations,” said Rich Kamph, senior vice president of supply chain for FOCUS Brands®. “What that means for franchisees is they participate in a much larger buying organization and are the recipient of the increased value this larger organization delivers. We’re able to leverage our size and scale with vendors to negotiate   superior supply agreements on high quality products and ingredients.”

Before teaming up with FOCUS Brands®, McAlister’s Deli® had one person overseeing their purchasing department and managing their supply chain. Now, the brand has access to 20-plus professionals who are working on their behalf every single day. These purchasing professionals typically have their own specific areas of expertise, dedicated to managing specific categories of ingredients and products.

According to Kamph, that level of expertise and attention to detail is what enables local owners to expand their reach as entrepreneurs alongside the McAlister’s Deli® brand.

“We allow our brands to tap into our speed to market and speed to innovation. Because we have extensive resources and expertise at our disposal, we’re able to turn around new products and programs quicker and better than McAlister’s Deli® would be able to do on its own,” said Kamph. “FOCUS Brands® is ultimately here to take McAlister’s Deli®’s franchise system to the next level. That then opens the door for franchisees to experience growth at a faster pace.”

As McAlister’s Deli® welcomes more franchisees into its system and continues to break into new markets across the country, the brand is building on its impressive momentum. In addition, by relying on its FOCUS Brands® connection, McAlister’s Deli® owners have the potential to grow their business beyond their expectations.

“Being a part of FOCUS Brands® is a distinct advantage that franchisees shouldn’t overlook. The firm’s position as a larger organization within the franchising industry improves upon our already strong support system, and ensures that our franchise owners have all of the tools and resources that they need to succeed at their disposal,” said Jeff Sturgis, vice president of franchise development for FOCUS Brands®.

If you’re interested in franchising with us, fill out the form.

Business Insider: McAlister’s Deli® Ranked As One of America’s Best Fast-Food Chains

Business Insider looked at nearly 100 of the largest U.S. chains to determine America’s favorite fast-food chains. 
Food trends and restaurants may come and go, but one thing is clear—Americans can’t get enough fast food. The proof is in the numbers—fast food represents a $238 billion and growing industry in the U.S. So which brands in this booming segment are people gravitating toward? Business Insider crunched some numbers to find out.

Using proprietary data collected by Restaurant Business and its sister research firm Technomic from 2016, Business Insider looked at nearly 100 of the largest U.S. chains and rated them on three criteria: financial performance, customer satisfaction and overall value.

Out of the 25 brands that were ranked, McAlister’s Deli® came in at No. 17, right in front of Schlotzsky’s®.

So which brand claimed the top spot? The beloved West Coast favorite, In-N-Out Burger.

Click here to read the original article.

McAlister’s Deli® Isn’t a Sandwich Shop—Here’s Why

In an industry filled with more than 39,000 sandwich businesses, McAlister’s Deli® prides itself on being different.

In an industry crowded with copy-cat concepts, it’s often times difficult to stand out in the competitive restaurant space. As concepts blur the lines of food service segments, brand differentiation is critical. Nowhere is that more evident than at McAlister’s Deli®. Often lumped into the sandwich category, McAlister’s Deli® has used a diverse menu and an unwavering focus on service and hospitality to really create a category of their own in the fast casual restaurant segment. It’s this focus and commitment that has attracted some of the largest and most successful franchisees to its ranks.

Growing up in New Orleans, Yaron Goldman always dreamed of owning a restaurant. He fell in love with cooking as a child, and, to him, nothing felt better than serving someone a great meal.

He achieved that dream by becoming a franchisee of McAlister’s Deli®. Goldman got his start with McAlister’s Deli® back in 1996 in Tuscaloosa, where he took on a job making sandwiches to earn extra cash while attending the University of Alabama. Three short months later, he was tapped to work full time managing the restaurant.

“I loved the job from the very beginning—it was the first time I had actually looked forward to coming into work every day,” Goldman said.

The McAlister’s experience stuck with him. And by 1999, he partnered with the people who had hired him in Tuscaloosa to open his first McAlister’s Deli® in Charlotte. These days, Goldman is cooking up even bigger dreams. He is the former operator of and currently an investor in the largest McAlister’s Deli® franchisee, with over 70 locations across multiple states, with plans to open several more in each of the next 3-5 years.

“Growing up in the South, you come to realize that good service and heart-warming hospitality are just as important as the food being served. I fell in love with the way food could bring people together and lift someone’s mood, and I found that in McAlister’s Deli®,” Goldman said. “McAlister’s Deli® is different from other restaurant brands out there and is definitely not a sandwich shop. This is a restaurant fueled by great service and simple—yet elevated—food. It’s the kind of place that feels like a second home.”

Countless other multi-unit franchisees are drawn to McAlister’s Deli® for similar reasons. That’s because, in an industry filled with more than 39,000 sandwich businesses, McAlister’s Deli® prides itself on being different. By putting a greater emphasis on offering healthier, quality ingredients, a wide range of customizable menu options and a more comfortable fast casual dining atmosphere, McAlister’s Deli® has risen above the fray over the past two decades—proving that it isn’t just another sandwich chain.

“We’re passionate about bringing people together with genuine hospitality where people can always experience a warm welcome and that little something extra. Also, we’re proud to offer real, handcrafted food and delicious sweet tea that’s simple, yet elevated and always made-to-order using the finest and freshest ingredients.  Finally, our neighborhood restaurants offer more than a place to eat, they are community gathering places, each with their own story to tell, where people can linger and enjoy the comfort of great food in great company,” said Paul Macaluso, the president of McAlister’s Deli®. “That’s what makes McAlister’s a dining experience that families can feel good about. We’re not a sandwich shop—we’re a fast casual restaurant that always offers 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 400 restaurants in 28 states, it’s clear that McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve. 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.

But that isn’t McAlister’s only key differentiator. The brand’s 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.

For all of these reasons and more, David Blackburn decided to become a multi-unit franchisee with the brand. As the CEO of Southern Rock Restaurants Group, Blackburn owns and operates more than 64 McAlister’s Deli® restaurants throughout six states. No stranger to the restaurant industry, Blackburn was drawn to McAlister’s Deli® because of its strong stance in the booming fast casual segment.

“At McAlister’s, the doors open by 11 a.m., and we’ll immediately have guests coming through our doors for that first glass of sweet tea. You won’t find more loyal guests than those that come to McAlister’s Deli®—some are even here two or three times a day,” Blackburn said. “The reason for that is simple—our expanded menu sets us apart. But the effort and energy we put into the hospitality is something special. We deliver your meals to your table. We refill your drinks. And we take care of our guests. You don’t get that kind of service at a sandwich shop. It’s our true differentiator. And that’s why I chose McAlister’s Deli® over any other brand.”

Fast Casual: McAlister’s Deli® Continues to Thrive as Fast Casual Industry Becomes More Saturated

Despite the restaurant industry’s slowing sales, McAlister’s Deli® is continuing to open up new locations in communities across the country.

Even as the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry continues to be saturated with numerous competitors, McAlister’s Deli® is still finding ways to grow.

A recent article in Fast Casual points to the grand opening of the brand’s 400th location as evidence of this continued success—after opening up 33 restaurants in 2016 and growing AUVs to $1.65 million, McAlister’s Deli® has its sights set on further expansion in the months ahead. That’s why the publication spoke to president Paul Macaluso to learn more about his perceptions of McAlister’s Deli®’s growth, as well as the state of the fast casual industry in general.

Macaulso says that McAlister’s Deli® is able to experience success in the segment because it’s constantly looking for new ways to stay relevant to consumers. The brand’s system is designed to give customers what they’re asking for, and ensure that customization is a top priority. McAlister’s Deli® also works closely with its executive chef to make sure that they’re constantly innovating and updating their menu.

However, according to Macaluso, what really sets McAlister’s Deli® apart from the crowd is its commitment to creating a positive environment for guests on all levels. In a Q&A with Fast Casual, he said, “When we first opened our doors in 1989, the founders build a brand driven by genuine hospitality. Beyond providing handcrafted dishes and unique offerings, we pride ourselves on creating an atmosphere that encourages guests to stay beyond their last bite to enjoy quality time with friends and family. This is something our guests recognize, look forward to, and know that they can always rely on when they walk into any McAlister’s Deli®.”

To read the original article, click here.

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