McAlister’s.

Some time ago, I was invited to eat at Peter D’s with a friend. It was about a year ago I guess. It was an enjoyable enough meal and experience, but I didn’t really document it in my head and so the memory got a little fuzzy over time.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to turn my critical eye back to them for a “working visit” and The Missus and I went one night to enjoy a date night. I took my notes, snapped my pictures, and formed my opinions.

A few days later literally as I was writing the review, I came across the news that Peter D’s was closing. I thought about it for a bit. Then, I deleted what I had written so far. However, I wondered what would eventually go into such a coveted space in The Avenues? In time, I got my answer.

McAlister’s.

This would be the second location for this large chain of over 400 stores in Murfreesboro. I had been to the first one only once, and so many years ago I may as well just say I’ve never been. Peter D’s left one heckuva pair of shoes to fill with this location, so let’s see if McAlister’s gopt the feet to fill them.

First Impression:

I’m starting in the parking lot this time. The approach to this location leaves something to be desired, but I don’t know how much of it McAlister’s inherited. The entrance to the parking lot is dark. A little more light out there would go a long way. One of the things I look for, but almost never have to leave a comment about is the handicap parking. I have no idea why, but the handicap spots are situated away from the front door, and regular parking closer to the door. Why? There is a ramp access closer to the door, but the handicap parking spots are situated further away near a second ramp. Bad form.

Entering the foyer, two things strike me. First, its January and there are fall decorations out. A bit odd, and smacks of inattention to detail. Next, there were several framed pictures on the walls and they all contained pictures of McAlister’s products, or people enjoying them. If I am already inside your building, you don’t need product placement to ensnare me.

This is just crass over marketing and it runs through the entire store.

There is no clear indicator as to whether you seat yourself or you wait to be seated. Or if you even get seated and order from the counter on the other side of the large room.

Atmosphere:

It feels like a chain place. Like stock footage. There are TV’s on the walls, more pictures of people holding glasses that say “McAlister’s” and such. Everything is a drab green and brown color, and even though I know the place had just been remodeled, it just had a dingy look to it. I think it was intentional, some kind of matte effect maybe but it just didn’t have the “earth tones” feel it was supposed to for me. The music was a late 90’s mix of things, and this is on me totally, but I don’t think I knew a single song. I. Am. Old.

Service:

It’s all counter service here, but they do bring your food to you. There was a general lack of energy and enthusiasm by the staff on this visit. The place was empty, and the staff either bored to tears or unmotivated by their management. Was it bad service? No. Was it welcoming? Not really. There was one aspect that really negatively reflect on the staff that I will discuss in the next section.

Food:

I ordered the South West Cobb Salad. It was a tasty enough salad, and really low in calories thanks to the nutritional info they had available to me to cite. Decent portions, but kind of lacking in the presentation. The ingredients were not near as plentiful as they appeared in the menu pictures. The worst part of the meal was the guacamole was not fresh and green. It wasn’t brown, but it wasn’t far from it. I had asked for my dressing to be on the side since I tend to just dip my fork into it to eat my salads these days, and eventually I found my dressing…on The Missus’s plate when they brought it out.

The Missus got the “choose two” option so she could have a bowl of soup to warm the bones, and the veggie sammich really appealed to her. Crab and Corn chowder was her soup decision, which surprised me as she doesn’t care for crab. Nevertheless, she found it yummy.

Here’s where McCalister’s earns the drubbing I am about to give them.

The Missus had ordered the Veggie Sandwich, which comes with (supposedly) fresh avocado. The avocado on her sandwich was brown and slimy, which is not a term I use often. It was a bit shocked, and we pulled the sandwich apart to look at it. Very dark, almost grey. She couldn’t continue with it and took it back to the counter. She returned to the table and told me that when the cooks were presented with the situation, they acted indignant and rude. If your cooks are visible to the customer, they are part of the customer service experience. The quality of the food should not even have been in question, much less sent out. The guac on my salad wasn’t fresh either.

A new sandwich was brought out to us, and it looked much better with definitely fresher product. Apologies were given, but nothing else offered to help make it right. The Missus enjoyed her second sandwich and said if it was the sandwich she had been given the first time her experience would have been wonderful. But I’m not soon going to forget the staff’s reaction to her complaint.

Cleanliness:

McAlister’s makes up points by being very clean. Its to be expected since they haven’t been open that long, but its nice to see it being maintained. There’s a pall that hangs over the place, but I think that’s more from color, upholstery, and décor choices than anything else.

Final thoughts:

This could have been a much better experience. Food that wasn’t fresh, attitude from the cooks, and not getting items mixed up on plates simply reflects a staff and management that is not motivated. This place is in the lion’s den. The Avenues/Gateway/The Med is the toughest restaurant competition in Rutherford County. Here it’s a game of inches and little things will make or break you. McAlister’s was nearly empty my entire visit. If they are going to survive, they need to fill every seat in that enormous dining room as often as possible. Or there’s going to be another pair of shoes for somebody else to fill.

2 out of 5 peace signs! Dig it!

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Make lunch, not war!