Restaurant Development & Design

NOV-DEC 2018

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 8 7 dated. We can't ever really stop." Developing a design and a brand position that addresses all those areas — from design to technology to din- ing trends — is difcult enough but to make the effort worthwhile, a chain must center these efforts on its customers. A sushi place, for instance, may want to address similar industry trends as McAli- ster's. If both chains use the exact same solutions, though, something has clearly gone wrong. To help with this aspect of the project, McAlister's turned to third-party research rm Sterling Rice Group (SRG). According to Robert Dimson, the chain's vice president of marketing, McAl- ister's worked for a year and a half with SRG. Through research methods, includ- ing focus groups and customer surveys, says Dimson, SRG helped McAlister's "determine and pull forward key char- acteristics ... to help us understand the fundamental need space that our guests are in. That journey led us to the overall Craveable Connections brand positioning that you see coming to fruition today." What Is Cravable Connections? McAlister's new brand positioning includes three main pillars. Connec- tions between the restaurant and guest represents the rst pillar. The chain, says Dimson, wants to provide hospitality to its guests. Through features like table service and staff that circle the restau- rant to attend to guest needs, McAlister's strives to be a place where guests feel comfortable and truly welcome. Culinary innovation — the "crave- able" aspect of Cravable Connections — serves as the second pillar. As a deli concept, McAlister's provides com- forting and familiar food. The chain, however, elevates its offerings, Dimson says. Instead of just a standard BLT, for instance, McAlister's offers a BLT with avocado and herb mayo. In addition to soups like tomato bisque, McAlister's has a seasonal autumn squash. Each restaurant's connection to the community it serves marks the third pil- lar. McAlister's doesn't want to be just a place to grab a bite to eat. It wants to be a member of the community, from serv- ing as a gathering place to supporting each community's causes. To that end, the company developed a community connections toolkit that helps individual stores partner with local nonprots or causes that are tied to the community. Through its research, the chain found these smaller partnerships do more for each restaurant's ties to its market than system-wide efforts. "What we heard in the research is that 'this is my McAlister's,'" says Guith. "Even though we're a larger restaurant concept, we still have a very local feel. There are real benets by having that connection to the community. There are other brands out there that are doing this, [but] we do believe it's a unique position for us in our segment." Naturally, the Cravable Connections brand position applies to more than a fund-raising strategy. The company reworked many of its other customer touchpoints with this approach in mind. For instance, McAlister's new logo and its new tagline, "great food brings us together," have been added to its cups, one of the restaurant chain's most frequent customer touchpoints, says Dimson. The restaurant chain also changed its uniforms as part of its brand evolu- tion. Prior to this effort, McAlister's employees could choose from several different-colored shirts with different designs on the back. The new shirts have a handful of sayings (one example: Snapshot Headquarters: Atlanta Concept owner: McAlister's Deli - Focus Brands – Roark Capital Concept style: Deli with counter ordering and table service Segment: Fast casual Unit count: 435 Average check: $15.50 Location of new prototype: West Midtown, Atlanta Opened: 9/17/18 Size: 3,100 square feet (occupancy space) Real estate: Freestanding Pad Site Design highlights: Prepaid pickup window, front counter tea displays, garage doors Build-out time: Five months McAlister's new design includes a patio wherever possible. This space can connect to the interior through a pair of garage doors.

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