McAlister’s Deli reported a systemwide same-store sales increase of 6.4 percent during the second quarter ended June 16.

Chief executive Frank Paci attributed the sales boost to upgraded menu items, including the Pecanberry Salad, which drove salad sales at the Alpharetta, Ga.-based fast-casual operator. The Pecanberry salad is made with mixed greens topped with strawberries, blueberries, candied pecans and grilled chicken.

“We just had a better quality offer than we did in the past,” he said of the quarter’s salad offerings. “[The Pecanberry] is a great salad with a light calorie count on it. I think it really appealed to a lot of people.”

On average, Paci said McAlister’s two-year same-store sales increase is between 12 and 13 percent.

In addition to the Pecanberry salad, other spring limited-time offers were the Basil Parmesan Griller, made with grilled chicken breast, pesto sauce, roasted red peppers and provolone cheese on grilled focaccia bread; and the Roasted Veggie Griller, a vegetarian sandwich made with Brie cheese, pesto sauce, roasted eggplant, zucchini and peppers.

“I think we had some great LTOs,” Paci added. “We’re continuing to see positive sales.”

At the start of the third quarter, McAlister’s added pot roast items, including a Pot Roast Sandwich and a Pot Roast Spud, to the menu permanently. The former limited-time offers were top sellers for franchisees, Paci said.

McAlister’s also continues to use catering as a marketing tool. “We continue to look at catering options and to promote them,” Paci said. “We love the catering business because it’s a great opportunity for us to take our product to guests and help sample products.”

“I do believe it generates additional business into our stores,” he added. “[Franchisees] believe catering is a profitable marketing program.”

During the first quarter, Paci said McAlister’s acquired 13 units from a struggling franchisee. The company is in the process of turning those units around, he said.

Overall, for the quarter, same-store sales rose 5.4 percent at company-owned locations and 6.5 percent at franchised units. Same-store sales increased 0.3 percent at the 13 locations that changed hands, Paci said, but those restaurants are not outpacing the company-unit average.

“Third-quarter sales have been good so far,” he said. “And we’re already almost two-thirds of the way through it.”

According to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 100 data, McAlister’s saw a 9.1-percent increase in latest-year systemwide sales, ranking 29th in sales growth overall. The company reported $419 million in systemwide sales during its fiscal year ended December 2012.

McAlister’s Deli has more than 315 locations systemwide, about 85 percent of which are franchised.

Contact Erin Dostal at erin.dostal@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @ErinDostal