The economic downturn brought new diners into 7-Eleven stores looking to fill their bellies without emptying their wallets, reported The Dallas Morning News. With the economy on the mend, the convenience store chain is launching "signature" food items that it hopes will keep consumers hungry for more, said the report.
"During the economic downturn, we've found that by offering programs like two-for-$2 slices of pizza...and offering consumers price value on some really good food, it was an opportunity to attract some [new] customers," Paul Pierce, 7-Eleven's vice president of quick service and fresh food told the newspaper. He was among the approximately 2,000 7-Eleven franchisees, suppliers and executives at the company's annual University of 7-Eleven in Dallas on Monday.
Click here for Morning News video from the event.
Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. hopes to grow food sales by 10% this year--more than double the typical 3% to 4%, the report said.
"We are looking at every food item that we sell today...from a muffin to our breakfast sandwiches to chicken wings to the burrito on the roller grill, every single item," Pierce added. "That food needs to be better than what you expect in a convenience store. We want our food to be better-than-restaurant quality."
Cigarettes still count as the top-selling item at 7-Eleven and c-stores nationwide. They account for nearly 36% of in-store sales nationwide, according to the report, citing the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). That compares with 17.3% for foodservice, which includes everything from beverages and Slurpees to sandwiches and pizza.
But as more consumers try to kick the habit, c-stores have worked to replace tobacco dollars with higher-quality food than stereotypical c-store fare.
The 10% target is the most aggressive goal for 7-Eleven this year, Pierce said. "I would think most consumers still think of 7-Eleven not in terms of food," Joe Hermes, senior director of fresh food at 7-Eleven, told the Morning News. "But we're slowly changing that perception. What we're trying to do now is bring out new and innovative items•that the customer can't get anywhere else."
At the three-day 7-Eleven event, franchisees sampled the six new sauce flavors for chicken wings, which are 50% larger; a pretzel/croissant breakfast sandwich with egg and ham; and Angus beef hot dogs. The items are either being tested or are slated to roll out later this year, the report said.