The fast-casual segment of the industry is one of the fastest growing, and McAlister’s Deli is positioned to take advantage of that growth, according to Peter Wright, VP franchise development. “We have a high level of hospitality and high quality of food—everything is prepared fresh, made to order, and served at your table—all core elements of our success,” he says.
“From the standpoint of potential investors, we are in the right segment; we are where the fastest growth is occurring. McAlister’s has a strong investment-to-sales ratio. In recent industry research based on 80,000 customers surveyed, McAlister’s was the top pick in five categories: food, service, beverage, atmosphere and value.”
The company operates more than 310 units in 23 states. “There are plenty of additional development opportunities within our existing markets, but we look to expand into new parts of the country, too,” says Wright. “Our brand operates successfully in small and large markets.”
Over the past few years, McAlister’s has been re-investing in its own system. “We have made substantial investments in every aspect of the business, building on our current success. We beefed up the business and created a platform for more rapid and aggressive growth. The company is at an operations level never seen before in terms of AUV. The whole system is growing,” says Wright.
“The company is at an operations level never seen before in terms of AUV. The whole system is growing.”
McAlister’s wants franchise partners with restaurant experience who are interested in developing multiunit areas, at least three stores. “We first look for someone who understands hospitality and has a commitment to delight our guests,” he says. “Second, we want someone who wants to be a best-in-class operator. Third we want the operator to have strong ties to the community. Customers know the managers and staff, and there is a strong relationship between the restaurant and the community.”
Once franchisees have signed, they are assigned a franchise business consultant who helps them build a business plan and lay out a critical path from plans to building and beyond. “We provide operations support for the length of our franchise agreement,” says Wright.
“We have an active franchise advisory council; it’s one of the key components in facilitating effective two-way communication between our franchisees and us. That communication is some of the most effective I’ve seen in a franchise system. Our management has the philosophy of an open ear, being good listeners. We are willing to hear and try new ideas to help strengthen and improve the brand.”
McAlister’s operates a number of company-owned stores. “We have a significant investment in the system. We don’t ask our franchisees to do anything we won’t do. That helps keep our interests aligned. When we kick-off new initiatives—technology, menu items, etc., we test those and make sure they are ready for system-wide rollout first.
“We continue to build on our strengths. We ended 2012 with sales at company-owned stores up 9.2 percent compared to this time last year, and franchise store sales up 8.2 percent over last year. A significant part of the sales increase was driven by new customer visits,” says Wright.
“We provide our guests with the best of both worlds: a quick, high-quality meal with great hospitality. And they don’t have to leave a tip.” That service and great food combination generates customer loyalty, creating regulars and fans, some of whom have created the McAlister’s Deli Tea Freaks on Facebook. They are that serious about their sweet tea.
“McAlister’s is known for our great food, genuine hospitality, and of course, our famous McAlister’s Sweet Tea,” says Wright.
For more information about franchising opportunities with McAlister's Deli, visit www.mcalistersdeli.com