McAlister’s Deli already has a strong foothold in Florida, with restaurants in 13 different cities in the state. Not represented among those markets is the far-west panhandle city of Pensacola, an omission McAlister’s is currently seeking to remedy.
Paul Macaluso, president of McAlister’s Deli, sees Pensacola as a natural next step for the deli brand.
“We like to grow out from our existing markets in concentric circles,” said Macaluso. “That way, we benefit from maximum brand awareness when we introduce stores to the new market. We’ve found so much success throughout Florida, and now we want to leverage that momentum and make a huge entrance in Pensacola.”
Demographically, Pensacola is right in McAlister’s wheelhouse, with a predominantly white-collar workforce and a smattering of seasonal tourism invited by the town’s historic architecture and scenic bays and inlets.
“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.”
Pensacola is also more diverse than the average American city, which gives McAlister’s all-inclusive comfort-food concept an edge over more specialized brands in the segment.
“We do sandwiches, baked potatoes, soups, sides, and amazing sweet tea,” Macaluso said. “It’s real, hand-crafted food; everyone loves this stuff.”
In addition to their growing presence in Florida, McAlister’s has established a positive reputation and enviable market-share in a diverse range of markets across 27 other states. Macaluso attributes much of that widespread success to the brand’s commitment to community integration.
“We’re proud of the fact that every single one of our restaurants offer more than a place to eat,” said Macaluso. “They serve as community gathering places, each with their own story to tell where people can linger and enjoy the comfort of great food in great company. That’s what makes McAlister’s Deli not just an ordinary sandwich shop, and people appreciate that differentiated experience.”
According to Macaluso, McAlister’s expansion efforts are further aided by the brand’s robust franchisee support system, which allows new owners of a variety of personal and professional backgrounds to get up and running quickly and successfully.
“Behind the scenes, McAlister’s works to help ensure that every franchisee is set up for success. Our model is designed around operational efficiency and simplicity. We set up owners with everything they need, and then they just have to apply it.”
Macaluso is confident that that operational efficiency and simplicity will make the new stores an attractive prospect to Pensacola entrepreneurs.
“Our business model is incredibly simple,” Macaluso said. “By focusing on what we do best and eliminating the need for major restaurant equipment like fryers and grills, we give prospective business owners the opportunity to grow alongside the booming fast-casual industry without breaking the bank.