Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Southern Eatery Trying North Jersey

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Southern Eatery Trying North Jersey

Article excerpt

An expanding Southern restaurant chain, known for its sweet tea and huge baked potatoes, is coming to New Jersey. It's initially targeting Paramus and looking for other sites in Bergen and Passaic counties.

McAlister's Deli, a 320-unit fast-casual chain, is entering the Northeast market via the Garden State, with seven of the restaurants slated to open in the state during the next five years. Initial target locations include not only Paramus but Wayne, Clifton and Totowa.

Based in Alpharetta, Ga., McAlister's Deli has reached a multi- unit development deal with A3 Investments of Jersey City. That franchisee is scheduled to debut one of the restaurants -- which tout their Southern hospitality, big portions and sandwiches -- in North Jersey early next year.

"McAlister's has a loyal fan base and we are experiencing strong same-store sales growth, which is driving interest in additional development," McAlister's President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Paci said in a statement. "We see a big opportunity for McAlister's to expand throughout the state."

A3 Investments, which owns and operates restaurants in Middlesex and Passaic counties, expects to create 70 to 100 jobs when it builds the seven McAlister's.

"McAlister's Deli is a strong brand with great growth potential, making it the perfect addition to our portfolio," Ash Ram, an A3 Investments managing partner, said in a statement.

Privately held McAlister's, founded in 1989, is in the "better- sandwich" restaurant category, competing against rivals such as Jason's Deli and Firehouse Subs, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based research firm.

"What's interesting about this brand is it focused on Southern hospitality, good-sized portions, great quality service and a destination that promotes dining at the store, in addition to takeaway," Tristano said.

McAlister's is known for its "Famous Sweet Tea," according to the analyst. "What we've seen with sweet tea is it's gone from being a Southern favorite to being more of a national play," said Tristano. …

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