Brand Builder: Big Expansion Plans Ahead for Multi-State Operator

Brand Builder: Big Expansion Plans Ahead for Multi-State Operator

Larry LeeLarry Lee had a built-in advantage when he leveraged his career in and shopping center development to include franchising.

"Great locations will offset everything else," says the Texan, who has 16 McAlister's locations open, with plans to add two dozen more by 2015 as he expands beyond his base in Texas and New Mexico. Lee first ate in a McAlister's at one of his San Antonio shopping centers. "No matter how great your marketing is, you can't market your way out of a bad location," he says.

Lee says his learning curve as he entered franchising was relatively easy. "Franchising was a little new, but I knew about the of course, and the financing requirements. Dealing with a franchisor was a little different but that's gone well, too," he says.

His winning approach led him to on with McAlister's for development rights in half of Texas and all of New Mexico, Idaho, and Utah. "We're up to 16 restaurants with four more under construction," he says. "Our future growth will create approximately 1,200 jobs throughout these local communities and give us an opportunity to bring McAlister's great and genuine hospitality to more locations."

Lee, who McAlister's Franchisee of the Year for the past 3 years, likes the business so much that he also became a franchisee for Wings 'N More Express. He's also become a partner on the franchisor side with Zio's Italian Kitchen and Don Pablo's.

In addition to his knack for spotting good locations, Lee credits his success to "good people running the operations--a great team of people all around."

His charitable and community involvement includes serving as board president for the Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center for children in Odessa, Tex. "He's been vital to bringing the center to where we are today because of his giving, his willingness to go into the community and get donations," says Permian's Executive Director Risse Rogers. "He epitomizes the definition of philanthropist because he gives and gives, never wanting anything in return. He simply wants to make a difference."


Name: Larry G. Lee
Title: CEO, Southwest Deli Group, Odessa, Tex.
No of units : McAlister's Deli, 19; Wings 'N More Express, 3
Age: 57
Family: Sons Clinton and his wife Cassie, and Dustin
Years in franchising: 12
Years in current position: 12


Formative influences:
My biggest influences have been my parents and their work ethic.

Key accomplishments:
One of my biggest accomplishments has been building a successful McAlister's franchise and growing a talented management team. Our restaurants are in the top 20 for sales volume, as well as net sales growth. We've also been recognized as Franchisee of the Year for the past 3 years.

Work week:
60 to 70 hours.

What are you reading:
The Admirals by Walter R. Borneman. It's about the four 5-star admirals of World War II and how they led the troops. Leadership under fire is another way to look at it.

Best advice you ever got:
Surround yourself with great employees.

What is your passion in business?
Making things happen. I love the challenge of starting a new store and watching it become successful.


Business philosophy:
Hire the best people, train them well, grow management from within, and give back to the community.

Management method or style:

Greatest challenge:
Finding the best people.

How do you hire, fire, train and retain?
I have a management team that is well trained in franchise management. I let them do their magic.

Bottom Line

Annual Revenue: $60 million.

2014 goals: We have a development plan in place for four states, including continued growth in Texas and New Mexico, as well as new territories in Utah and Idaho. Our goal for 2014 is to open 8 new McAlister's locations.

Growth meter: How do you measure growth? By the number of stores we open during a year and the sales those stores generate.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? We are now in Texas and New Mexico. I want to expand into Utah and Idaho, as well as open additional locations in Texas and New Mexico. In 10 years, I'd like to see more growth in more states.

What are you doing to take care of your employees? We offer extensive sales incentives, in-store contests, and advancement opportunities.

What kind of exit strategy do you have in place? I'm still working on that! However, it goes back to hiring people I know who have the same passion to grow this business that I have.

2014 MVP Single-Brand Growth Leadership Award

Why do you think you were recognized with this award?
Our long-term commitment to McAlister's Deli is evident in our recent agreement to more than double our number of stores by 2015. We've committed to opening 24 additional locations in new and existing markets and expanding McAlister's to two new states. We opened two stores on the same day in January--a first for McAlister's. We recently celebrated a 12 percent comp sales increase.

How have you raised the bar in your own company?
With each new store we try to break the opening sales record from the previous opening.

What innovations have you created and used to build your company?
We use a call center for We are the first McAlister's franchisee to incorporate the "call ahead" pickup window. We have a weekly Facebook promotion to keep customers engaged and coming in more often. We also have been innovative in designing new prototypes, including drive-thru windows.

What core values do you think helped you win this award?
A strong work ethic, devotion to employees, and giving back to the community.

How important is community involvement to you and your company?
I am active on both civic and nonprofit boards. Our stores raise funds for different charities, and our employees help at events within the community. We donate approximately $60,000 each year to charities.

What leadership qualities are important to you and your team?
Taking responsibility, punctuality, loyalty, working as a team, listening and taking action when needed.

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