BRISTOL, Va. — Restaurants McAlister’s Deli and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen will open their first Twin City locations later this year, the franchisees announced Wednesday.
The two eateries will share a 6,200-square-foot building to be constructed in the Euclid Avenue Shopping Center. The announcement came during a news conference at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.
“Peak Restaurants is a franchisee for McAlister’s Deli. We currently have 12 restaurants in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities and Roanoke area,” said Jeff Shawl, a founding partner of Peak Restaurants. “We are thrilled to be part of Bristol and expect that to be a great restaurant. It is a poorly kept secret that we’re going to be here, but now it’s official.”
His partner, Chris Smith, then donned a McAlister’s cap and revealed he was wearing a McAlister’s shirt, to the applause of those gathered.
Shawl, whose father, Don, is president of Arbico East — operators of area Arby’s Restaurants — said the company is happy to finally establish a McAlister’s franchise in Bristol. The Euclid site was selected over The Pinnacle and The Falls commercial centers and other retail cluster areas.
“That site selection was driven mainly by our desire to get a more traditional lunchtime crowd and get closer to rooftops than some of the other areas we looked at in the past,” Shawl said. “Some of where the retail is isn’t necessarily that close to where people live. We looked for more opportunity for business lunches and then rooftops for dinner. That site is probably the best one we could find with that concentration.”
McAlister’s offers a wide array of fresh sandwiches, wraps, salads, giant baked potatoes, soups, side items, desserts and a variety of “famous” specialty flavored teas.
The business will offer a pickup window — not a traditional drive-thru. Customers call ahead, order online or through a smart phone application and then pick that order up without leaving their vehicle. It won’t be a true drive-thru because there will be no menu board or microphone.
“The pickup window will be exciting. There are not a lot of McAlister’s with pickup windows. It brings another avenue to use us more conveniently,” Shawl said, while admitting it may take patrons a while to adjust. “There is a learning curve but it will take some time.”
Besides Popeyes, McAlister’s is moving next to an existing Subway store, a recently opened Taco John’s and Little Caesar’s Pizza.
“I think it’s positive because it lets everybody know, if you want to eat, you can find several different options,” Shawl said. “We’re in a lot of different markets with a lot of different competition, and we feel if we do what we’re supposed to do we can be successful.”
The Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which will occupy the other half of the building, represents the second Tri-Cities venture by Cambridge Franchise Holdings, a Memphis-based firm that owns Burger King stores and other commercial interests in nine southern and Midwestern states.
The company recently acquired the Popeyes store on Stone Drive in Kingsport and re-opened it Monday, according to Robert Hoffman, vice president of business operations.
“We’ve been looking at the Tri-Cities for a while, and we looked at Kingsport. It’s a strategic move because we want to build out here. The demographics are right,” Hoffman said. “I think when we start this brand fresh in a new city it really helps us.”
The Louisiana-based chain has more than 2,700 locations worldwide.
Hoffman said his company’s goal is to “really show what Popeyes Louisiana chicken can be.”
Besides fried chicken, the Popeyes menu includes shrimp, fish, sandwiches and wraps, a number of lower calorie items, an array of side items, soft drinks and iced tea.
Hoffman said the shared space configuration is unique.
“It has some advantages, and we can market with them. It’s not always the format we desire, but we look at a site and try to find a format that fits the site. It’s a great site because of the anchors around it,” Hoffman said, noting its proximity to Food City and downtown Bristol.
Both are expected to open later this year.
Project developer K.D. Moore acquired the parcel from Paramount Realty, a division of Food City, which began redeveloping the center two years ago. Moore said work is now beginning to demolish about half of the building that houses Subway, which will remain along with another unannounced tenant.
“We’re hoping to have all site work and buildings turned over to the tenants by the first of September,” Moore said. “We are ecstatic to finally get this to come to fruition. We hope to announce the third restaurant soon, but we don’t know yet who that is.”