Over the past decade, the quick service restaurant segment has seen a sharp incline in consumer demand for off-premise ordering options. Some QSR brands have resisted the trend while others have tweaked their operations to accommodate it, but a few brands have embraced and actively cultivated the change in consumer preferences, finding a rare opportunity to increase and diversify their revenue streams. McAlister’s Deli® has positioned themselves firmly in the latter category, innovating and expanding their off-site services at every opportunity.
According to McAlister’s Deli President Paul Macaluso, off-premise services have become an essential component of the franchise’s operations.
“Consumer trends have been pushing in this direction for a long time,” said Macaluso. “More and more, people want to order and dine outside of our restaurant. Our off-premise options have become every bit as important to our business as our in-store offerings.”
The shift to off-premise ordering is not only a convenience for customers, it also poses a number of operational benefits for restaurants that are taking advantage of the changes. Macaluso says that as McAlister’s restaurants do more business online, they’ve been able to improve their operations from a number of different angles for both on- and off-premise customers.
“Once we implemented and refined our off-premise ordering system, we saw significant reductions in wait times and communications errors, and it relieved a lot of the burden on staff during the busiest hours,” said Macaluso.
In an effort to further increase operational efficiency and customer convenience beyond the ordering process, McAlister’s has implemented a pick-up station system so that pre-paid to-go orders can be picked up more easily.
McAlister’s has also been improving their catering services, aiming to differentiate themselves from other sandwich catering options by adding a wider array of menu items.
“The spud bar has been a big selling point for our catering services,” said Macaluso. “It’s a unique and exciting product to offer at a party or tailgate or work lunch, where people are used to getting a big box full of sandwiches. The problem with a lot of catering services is that what you see is what you get; pick a sandwich, and pick your chips. With the spud bar, guests can customize their own lunch and create something they’re excited about. It brings in an element of fun and surprise.”
And because McAlister’s boasts a more varied menu than many of its competitor’s, its catering service has become a popular option for both lunch and dinner events, effectively doubling their opportunities compared to sandwich-only concepts.
McAlister’s owners are well-equipped to handle that extra volume. As restaurant operations have shifted to promote off-premise services, they have also been streamlined to simplify in-restaurant procedures and reduce the weight on staff.
“Implementing new procedures in our restaurants that will ultimately make things more efficient for the staff is easier said than done,” said Macaluso. “The trick is to make sure that everyone is up to date on how to execute the new procedures, and we’ve been working closely with operators to make sure that happens. These are changes that make our operations more profitable, our guests happier and also much simpler for our owners. It’s a win-win situation."