Opened in 1989, McAlister’s Deli is a chain of restaurants specializing in the “fast-casual” dining experience. The restaurant has developed a reputation for tasty sandwiches, baked potatoes with all the fixin’s, soups, salads and life-changing (in my opinion) sweet iced tea.
I am a huge fan of McAlister’s Deli, but what on earth is “fast-casual?”
Apparently, fast-casual dining combines the speed and convenience of a fast food restaurant with the food quality of a full-service restaurant.
Ah, yes. That does sound like my beloved McAlister’s.
McAlister’s purpose behind their fast casual dining appears to be genuine hospitality and working as a company and individual employees to give as much as they can, ranging from food to kindness.
If you’ve ever sat down to eat at a McAlister’s (if you haven’t, please get on it), you’ve experienced the eagerness of employees to refill your drink the moment they see it go empty.
And, for me, that’s so special to see in a counter service restaurant where the employees refilling your drink are not a waiter or waitress designated to your table throughout your time at the restaurant.
Something else you might’ve noticed if you’ve ever visited a McAlister’s is the range in demographic of the patrons there.
It seems McAlister’s overall target audience ranges from families to college students to seniors. Their marketing is pretty age-neutral across the board.
But here in Lubbock, Texas, it’s pretty safe to say that their biggest audience for the two storefronts they have here are college students.
For as much as I consider myself to be a huge fan of McAlister’s I had no clue they had an app.
So I went to the App Store on my iPhone, searched “McAlister’s Deli,” and I was greeted with two things.
A McAlister’s Deli app.
And a McAlister’s Deli Deliclub app.
Well, which is it? Which is the one that I want?
So, I put the pricey college education my parents are paying for to good use and I researched.
There, at the top of the screen, was a Call to Action to download the “Online Ordering” app.
So, I clicked “install” from that web page, and once it was downloaded I found that the Online Ordering app I had downloaded was the “McAlister’s Deli” app that initially appeared in my app store search.
OK, McAlister’s, let’s pick a name.
As I opened the app and dove in, I learned that it is truly only meant for online ordering. The app offers nothing else. But hey, that’s great for me, someone who had been calling in orders all this time like I had just come off the Mayflower.
However, while the app only does one thing, it does that one thing very well. The ordering process through the app is one hundred percent painless. Throughout every step, the app invites you to customize your order to ensure you are getting exactly what you want out of your meal, just like you would when ordering at a counter in their restaurant. The app presents a “Rapid Reorder” feature as well as allowing the user to save their favorite orders.
And at checkout, it offered to save my receipt to my photo library. How great is this? I didn’t even have to bring my free hand to my phone in order to screenshot the receipt. Truly, a one-handed process.
I placed my order, received my pick-up time, and started to get excited about my food.
While I waited, I dove deeper into the app. There’s almost no content there because it only does one thing. And while it does that one thing beautifully, I feel there are some missed opportunities for special offers and such to encourage use of the app. If McAlister’s did this, then they might be able to create more brand loyalty. But more on that later…
I decided to look into the Deliclub app that I was presented with in the app store. This is McAlister’s separate app for their loyalty program. The scathing reviews calling for the return of the traditional punch card rewards system and the 1.5/5 star rating immediately deterred me from downloading the app. It’s probably a good idea for McAlister’s to do away with this altogether.
Satisfied with my one McAlister’s app, I looked into their social media. As far back as I looked, there was no mention of the online ordering app or encouraging their followers to use it. The only Call to Action seen is when a user visits their website on a mobile phone and are presented with the option to download like I was.
This really is shame because the app genuinely does add value to their brand. Online ordering is available on desktop computers, but not through their mobile site. The only ways someone can order McAlister’s out of store without a desktop is through the app or by calling in. And while I’ve had nothing but positive experiences by calling in, the app is 1 million times easier.
When I went to pick up my food, I was enthusiastically greeted by a young man (probably about 22 years old) who asked if I was ordering or picking up. I told him I was picking up and he waved me over to his spot behind the counter.
He took my name and quickly grabbed my neatly packed bag of food from the shelf behind him and passed it over to me, all without dropping the smile from his face.
He told me my total, and as I passed my debit card over, I asked him what he thought about their app.
He told me he thought the Online Ordering app was fantastic, and I agreed with him. He brought up the point that the app is especially handy when you’re in a situation where you’re hungry, but cannot call in (i.e. sitting in class, anticipating being free).
I then asked him about the Deliclub. He said he didn’t find many people who use it, but when they do, the app has some glitches that prevent easy use (a comment consistent with the iTunes reviews).
If I was an executive of McAlister’s, this young man would be praised for his honesty. I, for one, never appreciate an employee trying to pull the wool over my eyes just to get me to use something the company has created.
A+ to the young man who gave me my food.
The food was delicious as well.
Gosh, I love McAlister’s.
OK, McAlister’s Deli. Listen up. I’m about to drop some grade-A recommendations.
1) PROMOTE THE APP. I, one of your biggest fans, had no idea it even existed until a few days ago. It really is a great app. It streamlines a process that every single person who visits your restaurant has to go through, but nobody knows about. It is so easy to mention the app every time you make a post about your delicious food on any platform. So do it.
2) QUIT CONFUSING PEOPLE. Pick one title for the online ordering app. Don’t let it appear under different guises in different places. Make it consistent. And if you’re attached to the Deliclub app, combine with the online ordering app. This way, guests can order and gather rewards all in one place instead of trying to work through the glitches of the Deliclub app at a face-to-face checkout.
Overall, I highly recommend the McAlister’s Deli Online Ordering app. It is easy to use, nice to look at, and it will get you some delicious food in no time flat.
(Wow. Just… wow.)
All photos are my own screenshots or taken from the McAlister’s Deli Instagram account.