How the strength of a major fast-casual brand can bolster franchisee portfolios.

Now more than ever, it’s important for franchisees to diversify their portfolios with strong, popular brands that offer both the fan acclaim and support structure to help owners and operators rise above the challenges facing the industry today.

Take McAlister’s Deli for example. Founded in 1989, this Atlanta-based fast-casual chain operates more than 470 locations across 27 states. To guests, the brand is known for its sandwiches, spuds, soups, salads, desserts, and most of all, the iconic McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea. However, the chain’s strong menu offerings and loyal fan following are a boon for franchisees, who also benefit from being part of the Focus Brands family of restaurants.

“As a parent company of world-class brands, Focus Brands is able to take care of our independent franchise business owners from leveraging economies of scale to providing a continual flow of information to help our franchisees make the best decisions for their business,” says Nelson Faerber, director of franchise development for Focus Brands.

With more than 90 percent of the chain being franchised, McAlister’s Deli has taken its Franchise Advisory Council as a partner to help the brand quickly pivot in the last few months to better serve guests while staying competitive in a rapidly changing market. Recently, the brand launched a mobile app to facilitate online ordering and a rewards program to drive consumer loyalty through points, which guests can redeem on future McAlister’s Deli orders. Meanwhile, McAlister’s Deli has also adapted offerings to tailor them to off-premises dining, including individual box lunches, catering, curbside pickup, and delivery at participating locations.

“McAlister’s Deli has seen success with meeting its guests where they are, and that means a greater emphasis on take-out, curbside pick-up, pick-up window and delivery services,” Faerber says. “The McAlister’s app allowed us to scale curbside pickup as a convenient option for our guests from 50 to more than 350 locations in just a week. Curbside has been one of the largest impacts to sales.”

Additionally, as diners’ eating habits have shifted, McAlister’s Deli has prioritized new meal options to fit the new ways consumers interact with restaurants.

“Now consumers desire the same delicious meals but in the comfort of their home around their dinner table,” says Joe Guith, president of McAlister’s Deli. “To provide families more options for mealtime, McAlister’s offers Family Meals, which serve a family of four, and McAlister’s Deli Kits, which serve six–eight people.”

In addition to these changes, McAlister’s Deli restaurants have simplified operations compared to other brands because there are no grills or fryers on site to manage. This has been another benefit to franchisees in trying times.

“We’ve created a model that is easy to run, so McAlister’s Deli franchise owners get to spend less time building their restaurants and more time building their businesses because of the great team we have at Focus Brands,” Guith says.

While McAlister’s Deli already enjoys widespread national appeal, the brand is looking for new franchisees to help drive additional growth. In return, franchisees can expect a high level of support from the McAlister’s Deli team and the benefits of being part of a respected brand for more than 30 years.

“We pride ourselves in providing the best-in-class marketing, operations and training materials and support to address evolving and growing business needs for the brand and franchised locations,” Guith says.

With an already loyal fan base and the strong backing of both McAlister’s Deli and Focus Brands, this deli chain is a prime opportunity. And with the brand’s focus on quickly adapting offerings to better serve guests while also taking the Franchise Advisory Council as a partner in decision making, franchisees can rest easy knowing McAlister’s Deli—and their business interests—are in good hands.

To learn more about franchising, visit the McAlister’s Deli website or reach out to Nelson Faerber by email at

By Peggy Carouthers

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