McAlister's Deli to Expand into Miami

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Southern fast-casual chain McAlister's Deli is set for a major Florida expansion, with ten locations planned for Miami-Dade and Broward counties.  

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain was founded in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1989. It now has 344 restaurants in 25 states. Jeff Sturgis, chief development officer at McAlister's says the restaurant chain, which serves lunch and dinner, currently has locations in Ocala, Gainesville, Tampa, and Destin, and is now focused on the southern portion of Florida. "Over the past few months, we are making a push in Florida. In addition to Miami, we have agreements in Southwest Florida and the Orlando area. We're focusing into expanding our footprint throughout the state."

Sturgis explains the restaurant's concept. "We are a fast-casual restaurant with a high degree of service. A customer will order food at the counter, but from there we almost operate as a a full service restaurant. We do the refills, we clear the table. From the day we started, our culture has been about service and hospitality. It's in our DNA. We're a friendly place and we look for employees that are naturally happy people."

Sturgis adds that McAlister's serves soups, salads, stuffed potatoes, and sandwiches. However, the best loved item on the menu is its sweet tea. "People come in for a sweet-tea fix. We have a very passionate following about our tea."

Sandwiches are also unique in that they represent various regions. For instance, there's a New Orleans muffuletta, a Kentucky hot brown, and a New York corned beef and pastrami on rye. The company is also working on a Miami Cuban sandwich. "We try to make our own spin on regional favorites, so the majority of the population can enjoy it and know it's a quality product."

So far, there are no leases inked in South Florida, although Marcelo and Berny Montalvan, the couple who are planning on opening ten locations have specific markets they are looking into. Marcelo explains, "We're looking at Aventura, Doral, Coral Springs, Sunrise, Brickell, downtown Miami, midtown, and Kendall. We need to have a good space with a customer base. As soon as we get the right site, we'll open as quickly as possible. We want to grow the company fast. There's a need for a good deli restaurant in South Florida."

Marcelo says that although he's looking at several areas, his hopes are to open the first McAlister's in Aventura or Doral. 

Berny describes the reason why the couple chose to bring McAlister's to South Florida: "Our son was in college in South Carolina and he just raved about the restaurant. We tried it too, and we loved it. It's very Southern and they have wonderful hospitality and good quality. The sandwiches are amazing, especially the New Orleans muffuletta. I'm hungry just listening to myself."

The first Miami-area McAlister's Deli could open as early as this year, with completion of the final ten locations taking around seven years.

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