An Interview with McAlister’s Deli President Paul Macaluso
1851: What about McAlister’s Deli makes it unique within its industry?
PM: First of all, we’re passionate about bringing people together with genuine hospitality where people can always experience a warm welcome and that little something extra. Also, we’re proud to offer real, handcrafted food and delicious sweet tea that’s simple, yet elevated and always made-to-order using the finest and freshest ingredients. Finally, our neighborhood restaurants offer more than a place to eat, they are community gathering places, each with their own story to tell, where people can linger and enjoy the comfort of great food in great company.
1851: What have been some of the brand's most important milestones over the past five years?
PM: We opened our first restaurant in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi and have had a rich history of important, industry leading accomplishments since that time. Specifically, over the last 5 years, we have had many, both in terms of our menu and our guest facing technology. In 2015, we launched our Green Tea platform, leveraging the incredible strength we have in Sweet Tea. Just last month, we launched our new Lemonade platform, made with pure cane sugar, further extending our leadership in beverages within the fast casual segment. On the side of technology, we launched an app-based loyalty program across our system in 2013, upgraded our pre-ordering app in 2016, and have plans to add online catering ordering and fully integrate all elements in one app in the summer of 2017. These are just a few examples of how the brand has grown and continues to have momentum. We have seen some excellent recognition from our guests, franchisees and industry experts related to the strength of our brand. In 2014, 2015 and again in 2016, we received certification as a “World-Class Franchise” by the Franchise Research Institute, based on the surveys from our franchisees. In 2015, we were ranked as the “Top Fast Casual Chain” on America’s Favorite Chains list by Restaurant Business. I’m also very proud that we were listed as the #23 best deals in Entrepreneur Magazines Top 500 Franchises.
1851:What plans does the brand have in the coming years?
PM: As previously hinted, we are currently evolving and revitalizing our brand positioning to ensure our brand stays relevant and differentiated to our guests. We hope to take that refresh and apply it not only through marketing initiatives, but also to our in-restaurant and digital brand experiences. Ensuring we are telling the same story that resonates across all platforms and points of guest engagement will help us have more meaningful guest experiences.
Along with our refresh, our brand is one that continues to grow at a great pace. This year we are opening our 400th restaurant and are opening in cities we haven’t introduced the brand to yet. It’s an exciting time for both us as a company and also for our franchisees as they help introduce us to new markets and guests.
1851: What does an ideal franchisee look like?
PM: The core quality of an ideal franchisee is the desire to provide genuine service. Whether that’s genuine service to customers, their community, fellow franchisees, or the brand, it’s a trait you can’t teach but must embody naturally. Meeting a franchisee that “gets” what McAlister’s stands for immediately puts them on the path to success. Of course having a background in operating restaurants or other hospitality driven businesses is a plus, along with the obvious financial resources, but what we really need are franchisees who understand what our customers need and work hand in hand with us to deliver beyond the guests expectations.
1851: Why is McAlister’s Deli a good investment?
PM: Behind the scenes, McAlister’s works to ensure every franchisee is set up for success. Excellent unit-level economics, operational efficiency and simplicity, superior products with a broad menu, differentiated guest experience and exceptional customer satisfaction are only some of the ways McAlister’s sets itself apart. After 28 years of operating and franchising experience, 30 plus company-owned units that provide real-time feedback on all operations, menu and marketing initiatives, and a high ratio of support staff to franchisees, McAlister’s is organized in a way that allows franchisees to get the best support and, in turn, provide the highest level of service and products.