Strong Brand, Strong Choice: McAlister’s Deli seeks to bring on experienced multi-unit restaurant owners

McAlister’s Deli operates in a unique space in the fast-casual segment, focusing on service and hospitality first. That translates to a broad customer base, strong and growing Average Unit Volumes, and considerable unit growth on the horizon, bringing a host of fresh opportunities for the right franchisees.

“We have a very loyal, passionate following of customers that know and love McAlister’s,” says Jeff Sturgis, chief development officer at McAlister’s. “We have a very broad menu that appeals to a wide audience. We’re not beholden to one specific food segment; we’re not beholden to a specific demographic segment. What separates McAlister’s from any other brand in the fast-casual restaurant space is our service level and hospitality.”

The brand is looking for prospective franchisees who are already multi-unit franchise owners and operators of other restaurant brands—ideally with at least five to 10 existing locations in another brand, or across multiple brands. “We want experienced people who know their way around the business,” Sturgis says. “Most of our owners are multi-unit owners, and most of them are very smart, savvy business people. The peer group is important. In speaking with other multi-unit operators, they like to know there are folks like them in the system who are already operating successfully.”

The initial investment for a McAlister’s restaurant ranges from $538,000 to $887,000 for an endcap location of 3500-4000 square feet. “There aren’t many restaurant concepts you can franchise that have our Average Unit Volumes without going into a casual dining space—and those are much more complex, with a higher initial investment in the buildout,” Sturgis says.

McAlister’s is a relatively simple concept, in terms of day-to-day operations. “We’re a lunch and dinner business,” says Sturgis. “We don’t serve breakfast; we don’t do late nights; we don’t serve alcohol; there are no grills; there are no fryers. We appeal to a wide variety of people, but we are not very complex on the kitchen side.” Franchisees also receive considerable support from the McAlister’s corporate team, from business plans to local marketing. “We spend a lot of time with our franchisees supporting them on restaurant operations, employee issues, employee retention, employee advancement, kitchen issues, good customer service,” Sturgis says. “We want to help them understand how to get the most out of the McAlister’s operating model.”

The company now has 338 stores open, 44 of which are company-owned. It is looking to grow its franchise presence in the southeastern, mid-Atlantic, and midwestern United States; specifically Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

“We’re growing sales in the restaurant; we’re growing store count; we have happy franchisees,” Sturgis says. “The overall marketplace is supportive of new restaurant development, and the consumer continues to look for a good-quality product with exceptional service. We’re very strong as a brand.”

For more information about franchising opportunities with McAlister’s Deli, visit