7-Eleven has hired Pizza Hut veteran Kelly Buckley to assemble a foodservice team that can go tong-to-tong with quick-service restaurant chains. In the meantime, she’s eying such possible menu additions as beer-infused brats, more salads, beef mini-tacos and two empanadas.
Those are some of the revelations that emerged from the convenience-store giant’s 7-Eleven University, held this week in Dallas. The event brings together 1,000 operations and merchandising employees of the c-store chain’s franchisor.
Buckley, who joined the headquarters staff on January 16 in the newly created post of vice president of fresh foods innovation, was scouting the conference for possible additions to 7-Eleven’s ready-to-eat menu, reported the Dallas Morning News.Buckley also revealed plans to assemble what she termed a "restaurant-quality" foodservice team.
The recruits will include pros with backgrounds in culinary operations, food science and "perhaps engineering and design," Buckley told the newspaper.
7-Eleven is committed to "bringing in people like Kelly who have foodservice in their DNA," added spokesperson Margaret Chabris.
Buckley was hired by the convenience store chain after spending more than 20 years in the restaurant business, including a stint as chief food innovation officer for Pizza Hut.
"Historically, people that were in foodservice stayed in foodservice and people who were in retail stayed in retail. But the lines are very blurred these days," Buckley told the News. "Everybody's playing in everybody else's area now. I don't think there are classical silos in place any longer."
"We're continuing to upgrade and to improve the quality of our food," Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, senior vice president of merchandising, marketing and logistics, commented to the paper. He added that up to 25% of the space in a typical 7-Eleven is dedicated to fresh and hot foods, up from about 15% 10 years ago.
Fresh food is the fastest-growing category at 7-Eleven, Chabris said.
Dallas-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 9,000 7-Eleven stores in North America.