The franchise group Aggressive Developments owns and operates the McAlister's Deli that opened in Macomb this spring. The restaurant is the group's 11th McAlister's Deli and its most successful opening to date.
Mathew Fox, president of day to day operations at Aggressive Developments and a part owner of the Macomb location, said the group opened its first McAlister’s 13 years ago and is currently working on its 12th and 13th locations, which will be in Bloomington and Effingham.
Fox said Edwardsville previously held the title as the group's largest opening, but Macomb blew the record "out of the water."
“We took care of approximately 8,000 guests that first week that we were open, which was about 1,500 guests more than we have taken care of in our previous best opening. Sales-wise, obviously if you take care of 1,500 more guests, you’re going to do more sales. On every level measurable, we were more successful in Macomb," Fox said.
Fox said McAlister’s Deli offers fresh food, not fast food and described the chain as fast casual.
Fox said the Macomb location experienced some of the typical growing pains associated with opening a new restaurant and training a new group of employees. Fox said they hire 60-80 employees from the community, train them for about a week, open the restaurant, and immediately begin handling high volume sales.
“Macomb was absolutely, without question, the most understanding and supportive community that we’ve gone into," Fox said. "I really felt like when I was getting the feedback from the people of Macomb, it really felt like they were our friends. I didn't feel like they were customers. I didn't feel like they were patrons. I felt like they were friends. It was like they were our friends, giving us constructive criticism, rather than negative feedback."
He said the support they’ve received from the community has encouraged the franchise group to further invest in Macomb by purchasing a “Rocky on Parade” statute from Western Illinois University for the front lawn as well as a college sports jersey to hang inside the restaurant.
Fox said he’s had several interactions with people who have tried to scare him away from the community by talking about the possibility of Western moving its main campus from Macomb to the Quad Cities or describing Macomb as "ghost town" in the summer when college is not in session.
He said despite those warnings, he hopes the early success of Macomb's McAlister’s Deli will last for years to come. “Macomb is one of those places where I can’t understand why more people aren’t there," Fox said.