McAlister’s Deli was founded in the late 1980s in Oxford, Mississippi, in a renovated gas station complete with checkered floors and a roll-up garage door. Today, that same restaurant is still in operation, and while it has been renovated to the current restaurant design, it still retains much of the original charm and hallmarks of its humble beginnings.
But don’t be fooled by McAlister’s Southern charm—even with deep roots throughout the South, thanks to the brand’s diverse menu, sweet tea and genuine hospitality, McAlister’s has since expanded from its start in the south to become a formidable player in the fast casual restaurant industry.
With the recent opening of its 400th restaurant, McAlister’s has now expanded into 28 states. And although many of their locations are located across the Southeast, the brand has established a strong presence in the Midwest and Ohio Valley regions with dozens of locations across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. This growth into neighboring states is the impetus behind their planned growth into Michigan. Initially, McAlister’s will focus on growth into central and western Michigan with eventual expansion into the Detroit metro area. To fuel this growth, they’re on the hunt for experienced multi-unit franchisees to help lead the charge.
"Western and Central Michigan represent an important part of McAlister's growth strategy, and we're excited about the brand's continued expansion into the region," said Jeff Sturgis, McAlister's Vice President of Franchise Development. "The McAlister's brand has become a top choice for some of the most successful multi-unit franchise owners in the country, so we're excited to watch the brand grow in these areas due, in large part, to the talent of our franchisees."
McAlister's has gained momentum with franchise development throughout the Midwest with recent commitments in key growth markets, such as Chicago, Northwest Indiana, Milwaukee, Madison, Omaha and Des Moines and its continued expansion into Indiana and Ohio. As the company looks to spur growth in Michigan, they are actively seeking qualified franchisees to develop in the regions in and around Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Battle Creek and Muskegon. Currently, McAlister's has one location in the state of Michigan, located in Lansing, and several locations in Northern Indiana, including Valparaiso, South Bend and Ft. Wayne.
“We’ve already seen just how well our concept resonates with customers throughout the Midwest. And because of the similar demographics found throughout this region, expanding into Michigan is a natural next step for the brand,” Sturgis added. “Historically, we’ve also seen that McAlister’s does best when we expand around the edges of where our strength has been. So as we grow our footprint in states like Indiana, we’re finding that as brand awareness expands outward, so too does demand for our product and our reach.”
Sturgis attributes much of the company’s ongoing growth to its diverse menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, giant spuds and of course, their Famous Sweet Tea; along with providing a warm, comfortable and inviting dining experience where guests can enjoy their meals whether they in are in a hurry or simply looking for a place to relax and connect with friends and family.
“McAlister’s is one of the first to embrace the concept of “fast casual’ before it was even a common industry term. We understand that people want to be more in control of their time and dining experience, as opposed to the traditional casual dining format,” Sturgis said. “McAlister’s has always been a service-oriented business with a focus on our guests, while offering great food at a great value.”
That unique positioning within the fast casual industry is what makes McAlister’s stand out from the competition as it continues to expand—but it’s not the only thing. In addition to offering an elevated fast-casual dining experience, McAlister’s offers extensive corporate support and gives prospective franchisees the opportunity to be a part of a rapidly growing brand and benefit from being under the umbrella of FOCUS Brands, leading developer of Iconic, Global, Foodservice brands.
“Our passionate franchisees are ultimately the driving force behind our continued success. That’s why having a strong support system is so important to us—we’re here to help our franchise owners reach their full potential as entrepreneurs,” said Sturgis. “As we grow our system throughout the Midwest and Michigan, we’re excited to continue building that network of dedicated franchisees, who, in turn, will help pioneer the McAlister’s brand in new, uncharted territories.”