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How McAlister’s Combines a Strong Menu and Southern-Style Hospitality to Stand Out in the Fast Casual Space
With over 380 restaurants in 28 states, McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve.

At this point, industry experts, business owners and customers alike know that the fast-casual segment is dominating the restaurant franchise industry. In fact, a recent report released by Technavio revealed the fast casual restaurant market is expected to reach a whopping $66.87 billion by 2020.

And while the proliferation of fast casual restaurants is good news for customers hungry for something more than the lackluster fast-food experience, it’s created a lot of competition in a marketplace that’s become increasingly crowded. Fortunately, for brands like McAlister’s Deli, standing out in a sea of fast casual restaurants comes down to one simple formula—whether it’s the menu, the hospitality or the atmosphere, it’s crucial to always offer up a little something extra for guests.

Founded in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi, McAlister’s Deli has a long history of raising the bar in the fast casual segment. And today, with over 380 restaurants in 28 states, it’s clear that McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve. According to Robert Dimson, the vice president of marketing, this starts with McAlister’s simple, yet elevated, menu. From quality sandwiches and spuds, to soups, salads and desserts, McAlister’s doesn’t confine itself to a specific label—it’s about serving up a strong and varied menu, and doing it well with only the freshest ingredients.

“Take one look at our menu, and it’s clear that we pride ourselves on offering an extensive menu—our variety is truly second to none,” Dimson said. “The breadth of our menu has become an asset—it eliminates the ‘veto vote’ because there’s something for everyone to enjoy and feel satisfied by.”

And yet, despite McAlister’s dedication to simplicity, the brand embraces innovation, too. Whether it’s introducing new limited time offers, or tweaking and enhancing familiar products, McAlister’s has found a way to optimize its core without veering off track from what has long made the brand great.

“We really do take pride in the fact that our food is simple, yet elevated. Looking at our menu through that lens, we’ve been able to narrow our focus while simultaneously remaining open minded. It’s helped stay within those guard rails to ensure that everything we offer is something we’re proud of,” Dimson added.

McAlister’s emphasis on genuine hospitality has helped the brand stand out, too. The brand goes out of its way to take care of its guests, and it’s important that within each restaurant, families feel at home the second they walk through the doors.

“People appreciate hospitality—they notice when you go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable,” Dimson added. “Whether you’re in the South, the Midwest or up North, it’s about great service and great atmosphere for us. It’s about giving people a place to connect over great food alongside friends and family.”

According to Dimson, McAlister’s third key differentiator is in the fact that its staff will always go the extra mile to make sure guests are leaving the restaurant with a smile on their faces. Other major competitors utilize a model that has customers placing their order and picking up their own meal. McAlister’s, on the other hand, believes that it’s important to actually serve people and bring food straight to their tables.

“It’s a very humble approach. It’s all about making sure that everything is going well for our guests. This means checking in with them to see if there’s anything they need—it’s heartfelt and genuine,” Dimson said. “These are all things that you don’t expect from a fast casual brand. And in the end, it’s what ultimately sets us apart in this competitive industry. We’re an uplifting brand that provides a community gathering place where genuine hospitality and real, handcrafted food come together to create craveable connections.”

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