In an industry crowded with copy-cat concepts, it’s often times difficult to stand out in the competitive restaurant space. As concepts blur the lines of food service segments, brand differentiation is critical. Nowhere is that more evident than at McAlister’s Deli.
Often lumped into the sandwich category, McAlister’s has used a diverse menu and an unwavering focus on service and hospitality to really create a category of their own in the fast casual restaurant segment. It’s this focus and commitment that has attracted some of the largest and most successful franchisees to its ranks.
Growing up in New Orleans, Yaron Goldman always dreamed of owning a restaurant. He fell in love with cooking as a child, and, to him, nothing felt better than serving someone a great meal.
He achieved that dream by becoming a franchisee of McAlister’s Deli. Goldman got his start with McAlister’s back in 1996 in Tuscaloosa, where he took on a job making sandwiches to earn extra cash while attending the University of Alabama. Three short months later, he was tapped to work full time managing the restaurant.
“I loved the job from the very beginning—it was the first time I had actually looked forward to coming into work every day,” Goldman said.
The McAlister’s experience stuck with him. And by 1999, he partnered with the people who had hired him in Tuscaloosa to open his first McAlister’s in Charlotte. These days, Goldman is cooking up even bigger dreams. He is the former operator of and currently an investor in the largest McAlister’s franchisee, with over 70 locations across multiple states, with plans to open several more in each of the next 3-5 years.
“Growing up in the South, you come to realize that good service and heart-warming hospitality are just as important as the food being served. I fell in love with the way food could bring people together and lift someone’s mood, and I found that in McAlister’s,” Goldman said. “McAlister’s is different from other restaurant brands out there and is definitely not a sandwich shop. This is a restaurant fueled by great service and simple—yet elevated—food. It’s the kind of place that feels like a second home.”
Countless other multi-unit franchisees are drawn to McAlister’s for similar reasons. That’s because, in an industry filled with more than 39,000 sandwich businesses, McAlister’s prides itself on being different. By putting a greater emphasis on offering healthier, quality ingredients, a wide range of customizable menu options and a more comfortable fast casual dining atmosphere, McAlister’s has risen above the fray over the past two decades—proving that it isn't just another sandwich chain.
“We’re passionate about bringing people together with genuine hospitality where people can always experience a warm welcome and that little something extra. Also, we’re proud to offer real, handcrafted food and delicious sweet tea that’s simple, yet elevated and always made-to-order using the finest and freshest ingredients. Finally, our neighborhood restaurants offer more than a place to eat, they are community gathering places, each with their own story to tell, where people can linger and enjoy the comfort of great food in great company,” said Paul Macaluso, the president of McAlister’s Deli. “That’s what makes McAlister’s a dining experience that families can feel good about. We’re not a sandwich shop—we’re a fast casual restaurant that always offers 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 400 restaurants in 28 states, it’s clear that McAlister’s recipe for success has helped the brand thrive in every local community they serve. 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.
But that isn’t McAlister’s only key differentiator. The brand’s 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.
For all of these reasons and more, David Blackburn decided to become a multi-unit franchisee with the brand. As the CEO of Southern Rock Restaurants Group, Blackburn owns and operates more than 64 McAlister’s restaurants throughout six states. No stranger to the restaurant industry, Blackburn was drawn to McAlister’s because of its strong stance in the booming fast casual segment.
“At McAlister’s, the doors open by 11a.m., and we’ll immediately have guests coming through our doors for that first glass of sweet tea. You won’t find more loyal guests than those that come to McAlister’s—some are even here two or three times a day,” Blackburn said. “The reason for that is simple—our expanded menu sets us apart. But the effort and energy we put into the hospitality is something special. We deliver your meals to your table. We refill your drinks. And we take care of our guests. You don’t get that kind of service at a sandwich shop. It’s our true differentiator. And that’s why I chose McAlister’s over any other brand.”