In 1987 Don Newcomb, an Oxford, Mississippi dentist purchased an old gas station that was converted into a 1950s diner and hangout for a movie, The Heart of Dixie, that was being filmed in Oxford. During the 1950s, Don Newcomb did work at a soda shop in Ripley, Mississippi where he had grown up. Having very fond memories of the time that he spent doing this job as a teenager, he had a desire to try his hand at the restaurant business again but wanted something more upscale than the normal fast food establishment ventures.
In 1989, having a dream to start his own restaurant, Don Newcomb along with his sons, Chris and Neil, and Debra Bryson who was his dental office manager at the time, opened a small deli style sandwich shop that they named Chequers. Since there was already a major restaurant chain that was forming named Checkers, Don Newcomb realized that to avoid confusion he would have to change the name. He decided on McAlister’s Gourmet Deli which was named after his wife’s parents last name.
The design format for McAlister’s Gourmet Deli was simple yet catchy. The restaurant featured distinctive decorations such as exposed ceilings, a scattering of local artifacts around the restaurant, and a garage door. The menu was printed on large boards that hung over the cashier station and the meals that customers ordered where served to them in baskets with plastic utensils. The first customers were served food that was considered to be more assembled than prepared from precooked ingredients that were heated in Lincoln steamers, prepared in convection ovens and toasted in rotary toasters. Debra Bryson was credited with the initial design for the restaurant. Don Newcomb also believed that it was only fair to pay his employees what he felt their work was worth.
Proving to be very successful, McAlister’s Gourmet Deli seemed to appeal mostly to college age students. Don Newcomb had a desire to branch out this restaurant into new locations. By the end of 1994, there were 4 McAlister Gourmet Deli Restaurants located around Mississippi. All of these establishments were within walking distances of major colleges and universities.
In 1995 Don Newcomb went public with the idea of starting franchise opportunities for McAlister Gourmet Deli Restaurants. Most of the franchisees that first inquired about the opportunity were previous customers that felt this would be a successful business venture. It was also during this time that Inc. magazine listed this company as one of the top 500 businesses around. Generating over 46.3 million dollars in sales, there were 42 restaurant establishments with 11 of them being company owned.
The company ventured into a completely different direction in 2001 when they experimented with the idea of a more compact restaurant setting. Setting up in a mall food court area, McAlister’s Gourmet Deli was looking for a way to accommodate there largest customer volume by finding a way to establish the company into the college campus itself. With most campuses having food court areas, this proved to be a great innovative idea. And once again it was successful.
McAlister’s Gourmet Deli Restaurants are still increasing in numbers. Even though the original founding members of the company have left to begin new ventures, the company concept is still in operations. The employees of McAlister Gourmet Deli establishments still continue to make higher wages than other restaurant employees and any employee who works more than 34 hours is still given a medical insurance package. This gives the customers the opportunity to enjoy delicious food without having the obligation to leave a tip. Any tips that are left at the restaurant are donated to a community charity organization. Serving a wide variety of sandwich choices, salads, desserts, Texas style baked potato options, and their famous McAlister Sweet Tea that is available by the glass or the gallon, the company shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
If you would like the opportunity to experience the many great benefits that McAlister’s Gourmet Deli establishments have to offer, visit their website at www.mcalistersdeli.com . For added bonuses, such as money saving offers, first hand knowledge of what is new and even birthday surprises, sign up for the McAlister Deli E-mail Club and you will receive all of the latest news and offers right to your inbox.