After graduating from Michigan State University in 1997 with a marketing degree from the Eli Broad College of Business, Christine White jumped right into the world of sales with enthusiasm and passion. However, after six long years, White realized her true calling was elsewhere.
“I just kind of had a revelation, that I was a little antsy working for people, I wasn’t really feeling that environment and kind of stumbled upon McAlister’s Deli late at night on the Internet — back when the Internet was new,” recalled White. “We took a trip down to Kentucky to the closest store. I literally took one step into the store and I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Not long after, White dove into the franchising process of opening her own McAlister’s Deli: a fast-casual restaurant chain known for their delicious sandwiches, spuds and renowned sweet tea. White opened her first storefront in Eastwood Towne Center as one of its first eateries in 2003, shortly after the popular shopping center opened for business in 2001, and she hasn’t looked back since.
The decision to open your own business is typically blessed by flexibility, which remains the case for White. Owning her McAlister’s location has provided White with opportunities that extend to her family life, yet her train of thought never strays far from her work; a dedicated leader is key for a strong business, no matter the price.
“When you choose to be your own business owner, you don’t always know what you’re doing — people don’t always realize that opening a restaurant is a lot of work and it’s not easy,” said White. “I have four kids and maintain a busy lifestyle but as an owner, I’m able to go volunteer in my son’s classrooms, go on field trips and have those freedoms — but it never completely shuts off. It’s not your typical 8 to 5 because your brain is always running — I’m always thinking about how my business is operating and how I can make it better.”
If you’re looking for suggestions on what to order, asking White may come with some bias. The menu is what drew her in from the start, and White is proud to serve a varietal menu that presents quality meal options that remain accessible in terms of their value. She’ll vouch for their grilled sandwiches and salads that have come to be local favorites, but White still finds herself surprised and impressed every day when entering the kitchen. Coupled with experience, McAllister is a brand built on integrity and consumer satisfaction.
“It’s the feel and the environment. I like the concept of upscale, quick and casual -— where people want to come in and eat but they want it fast without losing quality,” explained White. “People want that experience without being tied down for one hour or more like a full-service restaurant. It’s got great style and décor while still being a kid-friendly restaurant and I love the menu. We have a lot to offer.”
Following the success of her first location, White opened the now defunct Okemos location in 2005. Today, her original shop has embraced additional business by being the only location not only in the city, but in the state. Founded in 1989, the Mississippi-based company has spread its operations in 26 states across the country and continues to grow steadily.
No matter how far the brand expands, McAllister’s of Lansing remains dedicated to the community. White and her staff are excited for the changes happening around them, as Eastwood Towne Center continues to grow, and they are adamant about giving back to the community whenever they can. In the past, the shop has worked alongside MSU athletic teams to provide dependable catering options before games, encouraged local schools by hosting charity events and supported fundraising initiatives for the family of Lansing firefighter Dennis Rodeman in 2015. It’s these small examples that paint a bigger picture: one of a local eatery that genuinely cares about the community and the food that they eat.