McAlister’s Deli, a leading fast-casual restaurant, awarded The Saxton Group and Southwest Deli with the Franchisee of the Year Award at its annual franchise conference in Las Vegas.

Led by Kelly Saxton, Dallas-based The Saxton Group owns and operates 53 McAlister’s restaurants in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.

Southwest Deli, based in Odessa, Texas, and led by Larry Lee, has 15 locations in New Mexico and Texas.

The Franchisee of the Year Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in sales growth, unit expansion, and restaurant evaluation scores.

“The Saxton Group and Southwest Deli both had an exceptional year in 2012, with double-digit comparable sales growth and the development of multiple units,” says McAlister’s Deli president and CEO Frank Paci. “We are excited to recognize their accomplishments and dedication to the McAlister’s Deli brand.”

Over the past two years, McAlister’s has undertaken initiatives to strengthen its brand, including upgrading menu offerings and improving speed of service. Technomic recently recognized McAlister’s 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, News, Sandwiches, McAlister's Deli