Heather and Steve Ricks stumbled into the McAlister’s Deli® franchise system in an unconventional way. On a ski vacation, the couple started a conversation with a McAlister’s Deli® franchise owner while waiting on a ski lift. Heather thinks it was fate.
“Two weeks earlier I had lunch with my family in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the place they picked was a McAlister’s Deli®. I thought it was yummy. I told Steve about it, and he said he would look into it. Nine years later, here we are.”
Now Heather and Steve Ricks own three McAlister’s Deli® franchise restaurants located in Northern Virginia.
“It was an awesome decision. We love being franchise owners. It’s exactly what we were looking for in a brand and a business. This [owning a franchise] is way more fun. It’s nice not having to work somebody else’s agenda. Not climb someone else’s ladder. It’s great being your own employer and having a team behind you, too,” Heather adds.
Every day varies as a McAlister’s Deli® franchise owner. Heather goes out with her catering team to sell their services, works in the restaurants with her teams, and takes care of the guests at her restaurants. Heather is also on the Franchise Advisory Council (FAC) for the franchise and is involved in the decisions that concern the brand as a whole.
“The McAlister’s Deli® brand is solid. The ease of operation is unmatched. It lays a foundation for you to feel confident that you can run multiple locations.” said Heather.
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Adam Saxton may be the quintessential multi-unit franchise owner. Even though he is only in his thirties, Adam has worked in the restaurant industry nearly his whole life, because his family owned pizza restaurant franchises. When he and his brother went looking for their next opportunity, they knew the importance of a proven restaurant franchise that had a plan for strategic growth. They chose McAlister’s Deli®.
Now, as Co-CEO and owner of The Saxton Group, he and his family are the largest franchise owners in the McAlister’s Deli® system, with 80+ locations in six states.
“One of the things that excites me every day is McAlister’s feels like it’s still such a young brand, even with 400 plus units covering large portions of the United States. I feel like we still have a lot of opportunity ahead of us. We’re opening more restaurants now than we ever have, at a faster pace than we ever have.’
With so much franchise experience behind him, Adam was asked by Franchising World Magazine what advice he would give other franchise owners and multi-unit owners. Here is a list of his best advice:
- Never compromise on real estate. One of the worst things you can do is feel pressured to make a long-term real estate decision on a short-term opportunity that you know wouldn’t be as successful. Smart franchisors will provide the time and resources necessary for a franchisee to identify the right location. It all goes back to being patient. If what you’re looking for isn’t available, wait until a more fitting option comes on the market.
- Build a self-sustaining team and promote from within. We (The Saxton Group) have built a culture where 100% of our promotions come from within. This encourages employees to want to continue growing within the company and results in greater stability and consistency. Show employees a clear opportunity path, and they’ll form the team that will make your business strong.
- Evolve with the times. McAlister’s Deli® has emerged as a strong brand with a large following, due in part to investments and decisions that have been made to push the brand forward. Online ordering, a loyalty app, new menu options, fresher and healthier ingredients, and specific offerings for kids and families are just a few examples of how we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our guests.
- Don’t get distracted. One of the best lessons learned in franchising is to keep your head down and focus on why you’ve decided to become a multi-unit owner. Even when the times get tough, focusing on what’s important will eventually lead business owners to a profitable outcome.
If you are considering adding to your portfolio and building an empire like Adam has with McAlister’s Deli®, complete the GET STARTED form now.