Of the 28 states where McAlister’s Deli has opened restaurants, Virginia has proven one of the most reliable markets for franchisee success. The fast-casual franchise already has 11 restaurants in the state and is looking to capitalize on their strong reputation by opening their first restaurants in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia’s first and second most populous cities respectively.
Paul Macaluso, president of McAlister’s Deli, sees the southeast Virginia market as a natural and essential component of the brand’s growth strategy.
“McAlister’s Deli has already established a strong reputation and created positive relationships with consumers across Virginia,” said Macaluso. “We want to build on the momentum that’s already evident in the state.”
Compared to other Virginia cities where McAlister’s has already found success, Virginia Beach and Norfolk have the added benefit of being beach towns with heavy tourist traffic in the spring and summer months. According to Macaluso, the fast-casual segment is uniquely well suited to attract and accommodate both permanent residents and tourists.
“Fast-casual is perfect for these types of communities,” said Macaluso. “When you’ve got a mix of permanent residents and out-of-towners, the one consistency is that customers are looking for a safe bet for their whole family and something that’s going to be comfortable. This isn’t a get-in-and-get-out type of place; this is somewhere you can take your friends or family and enjoy a meal together.”
The menu too is designed to attract customers from all walks of life, an important feature for restaurants in tourist-heavy areas.
“We do sandwiches, baked potatoes, soups, sides, and amazing sweet tea,” Macaluso said. “It’s real, hand-crafted food; everyone loves this stuff.”
Macaluso’s confidence is well earned. The Oxford, Mississippi-based deli franchise has expanded steadily in its 30-odd years and now has over 400 locations throughout the U.S. Macaluso attributes that success to the brand’s commitment to franchisee support.
“Our franchisees are ultimately the driving force behind our successful expansion initiatives,” said Macaluso. “That’s why our strong support system is such an integral part of our franchise system, we want our local owners to receive the best possible advantages in today’s ever-evolving restaurant industry.”
To that end, McAlister’s offers a robust suite of support services to new owners, including hands-on training in an existing McAlister’s restaurant and periodic visits from the brand’s franchise business consultants.
“On the corporate level, everything that we do is designed to set our franchisees up for success,” said Macaluso. “Between guiding them through the grand opening process and making ourselves accessible to lend a helping hand whenever needed, our top priority is ensuring that the McAlister’s model is working in every market it calls home. By helping our franchisees reach their full potential, whether they’re single or multi-unit operators, we’re helping position the McAlister’s brand for continued growth in the long run.”
Macaluso expects to have no problems finding excited and qualified candidates to open new McAlister’s locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
“Ultimately we’re just looking for smart, ambitious people who have a passion for the brand,” said Macaluso. “It’s not like you need a special degree. Our processes have been fine-tuned and are easily applied.”
With the combined benefits of widespread name recognition, a strong franchisee support system, and an established model of procedures and best practices, new McAlister’s owners in Norfolk and Virginia Beach are uniquely well positioned for success, and southeast Virginia may well prove to be one of McAlister’s most lucrative markets.