Third local McAlister's Deli planned for Winter Garden, more sites sought

GrowthSpotter contributor

McAlister’s Deli, home to spuds, sweet tea and two-fisted sandwiches, will open a new location later this year in Winter Garden’s yet-to-be-developed Gardenia Plaza, with a local franchisee in search of at least two more sites. 

Mark Graff, one of the principals in the Good Eats Florida LLC franchise group, said he hopes to have the third McAlister’s in Greater Orlando open by late fall. The timing depends on how soon Gardenia Plaza developer Darand Williams can have a pad ready for the fast/casual restaurant.

Located at 14120 W. Colonial Drive, The West Market (also known as Gardenia Plaza) Planned Commercial Development ordinance has its adoption hearing scheduled for this Thursday’s City Commission meeting, said Winter Garden city planner Kelly Carson. 

Williams also recently resubmitted a preliminary plat for Development Review Committee review. After DRC review, it must be approved by the Planning & Zoning Board. The developer will then have to submit for final plat approval.

The revised site plans for McAlister’s Deli were also recently submitted, Carson said. They still need DRC approval as well as approval from City Commission.

Unlike the two other regional McAlister’s -- one in Orlando’s University Commons, and the other in Clermont -- the Winter Garden restaurant will feature a drive-thru window, Graff said.

“There are McAlister’s that are starting to put in drive-thru windows, and it’s become more convenient to go online or to the website to place an order and not have to get out of your vehicle,” he said. “The drive-thru window will drive more volume because of the consumers’ desire for convenience.”

The newest restaurant will be about 3,800 square feet in size, smaller than the partnership’s other store in Clermont. Graff said the deli won’t need as much sit-down space because of the drive-thru. He declined to say how much money the group will invest in this project. 

Good Eats signed a franchise agreement in 2015 to open four McAlister’s in Central Florida, Graff said. The first restaurant the franchisee opened was at 2420 E. Highway 50 in Clermont. That location is doing well, said Graff, who thinks the Winter Garden restaurant will be equally successful. 

“Restaurants do well in Winter Garden,” Graff said. “We thought by being on Highway 50 and having real easy access in and out, it would do well …. Winter Garden is going through a renaissance, both downtown and on Highway 50, and we wanted to be part of that.”

Graff’s partners in Good Eats Florida LLC are Christina Berry and Jeff Paulsen. Graff declined to say what other locations the group is considering.

“The agreement commits us to building two more,” he said. “We’re committed to four, but if they continue to be successful, we’ll go beyond that (number).”

The McAlister’s in Orlando, at 12226 Corporate Blvd., is operated by Bryce and Stacey Kelly, principals of the Newberry-based Abundant Endeavors Inc.

The first McAlister’s opened in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi. The restaurant features healthy portions, large baked potatoes called “spuds,” and Southern-style sweet tea that can be purchased by the glass or gallon.

The formula proved so popular that the store expanded into other college markets throughout the Southeast and beyond. The chain now has more than 400 restaurants in 28 states.

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