McAlister's Deli: The Effect of Innovation on Sales and Development
We asked McAlister's Deli President Joe Guith how innovation has affected the brand's sales and development process.
Innovation is key to staying relevant in the quick-moving fast-casual industry.
When we progressed with McAlister's Deli's evolution last year, we knew we'd be presenting a few challenges for our sales and development teams. Whenever you change the look and feel of the restaurant, you have to be open to dialogue with your team and be honest about the challenges as you work to construct a new prototype and direction. This was our biggest evolution in 30 years, so we had to answer a few key questions.
1) The first question was in relation to cost: How do we increase brand relevancy while driving both the top and bottom lines? Fortunately, we were able to develop a new prototype that is equivalent in cost to our older model when it comes to finishes and decor, so we can forecast the return for our franchisees. However, the new footprint is smaller (less seating) because of our off-premises growth, so we had to correctly position that to our current franchisees and prospects.
2) Next always is why? Why are we evolving, and why now? These are natural questions, and it's on us to properly communicate our reasoning. We worked with our teams to discuss the reasons for evolving and doubled down on our core equities, beverage merchandising and community connections. We knew that our guests would appreciate the convenience of our off-premise offerings and would want to see our McAlister's Famous Sweet Tea at the forefront of what we do. That's already showing, as tea remains our number-one third-party delivery item (accounting for 10 percent of all sales), and our pick-up windows are showing a good return as well.
3) Finally comes the how (the most important question). Our sales and development teams want to know how we are going to pull this off and the time frame for doing so. They want to know what messaging to use in their sales conversations and how this may affect our relationships with developers. Focus Brands' leadership in this area was key. Our leadership team knows how to make brands more relevant and how to maintain established relationships with some of the best real estate brokers in the industry. Additionally, the analytics model we use to identify the best trading areas and site criteria has helped make the development transition rather smooth.
Innovation is never easy, but it's entirely necessary. It's essential that brands always look to improve, for both their franchisees and their customers.
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