Nation's Restaurant News stopped by the McAlister's Deli booth to chat with the 305-unit brand's chief executive Frank Paci. Paci, 53, who has been on the job at the Ridgeland, Miss.-based chain for only eight months, gave his thoughts on this year's NRA Show.
What will you take from this show?
We identified several things beforehand that we wanted to look at. We're looking at upgrading proteins, packaging alternatives by going green and different plateware options. We want to see what's hot out there.
What has surprised you the most at the show?
We're positively surprised by the number of people who have stopped by the booth and are interested in the McAlister's concept. Also, even though we have identified things up front, we end up finding something else here.
What has caught your eye from the financial side?
People are struggling with where they can go for financing. They're asking, 'Who is lending? How are they lending?' At a panel discussion, we met a guy who loans only to franchisees. There are financing niches.
What's the next frontier for McAlister's Deli? I heard you're looking to expand into airports and college towns.
We want to be in college towns. We're looking at opening near Notre Dame and North Carolina A&T. We have a strong history with college towns. The original McAlister's opened near Ole Miss. College towns are right as a target because of the demographics of people who want healthy and fresh food.
Have you been to previous NRA shows? How does this one stack up?
They're phenomenal shows from a diversity of vendor standpoint. There are protein suppliers, bread suppliers, equipment suppliers. It can be overwhelming. You have to come with the attitude that it's an educational experience. In the end, if we get one relationship it pays for it.
Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].
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