McAlister's Deli announced its largest franchisee, The Saxton Group, has signed an agreement to develop 30 new restaurants in three states over the next six years. The growth will occur in markets throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, with a primary focus in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Kansas City markets.  

“This agreement represents The Saxton Group’s long-term commitment to the McAlister’s brand by growing our presence in new and existing markets,” says company founder and chairman Kelly Saxton. “Our future growth will not only create approximately 1,500 jobs in these local communities, but also directly benefits our more than 2,000 existing employee-owners that are invested in our Employee Stock Ownership Program.”

McAlister’s Deli president and CEO Frank Paci adds, “The Saxton Group has been a strong franchise partner since it opened its first McAlister’s in 1998 and has been named franchisee of the year multiple times. We are excited to have them continue to grow the brand and to bring McAlister’s great food, genuine hospitality, and famous sweet tea to more locations.”

Three locations included in the agreement have already opened this year in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and Dallas and Sherman, Texas. The Saxton Group has plans for additional locations in Irving, Texas, and Lawton, Oklahoma, in the first quarter of 2014, followed by at least two restaurants in the Kansas City market in 2014.

The Saxton Group owns 54 restaurants throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas. In January 2013, The Saxton Group created an Employee Stock Ownership Program, becoming one of the largest 100 percent employee-owned companies in the restaurant industry. Under the plan, eligible employees will earn shares of The Saxton Group stock over time.

McAlister’s has undertaken initiatives to strengthen its brand, including upgrading menu offerings and improving speed of service. Technomic recently recognized the brand as the top chain in the fast-casual industry for food and beverage and as one of consumers’ Top 5 Favorite Chains in the country. 

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Sandwiches, McAlister's Deli