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    7-Eleven Taking Hot Foods Nationwide

    By year's end, roughly 1,700 of the retailer's stores will carry the expanding menu.

    By Linda Lisanti

    DALLAS -- After successfully testing the program in several markets, 7-Eleven Inc. is proceeding with a national rollout of its hot foods lineup, and expanding the variety of menu items offered, CSNews Online learned from company executives.

    Currently, roughly 700 of the chain’s stores offer the selection of hot foods, which includes pizza, chicken wings, chicken tenders and Mexican churros. By this year’s end, that figure is expected to increase by another 1,000 stores, according to 7-Eleven Chief Operating Officer Darren Rebelez. To date, the program is being well received in the states of Virginia, Washington and Oregon, as well as in Vancouver, Canada, he said.

    "It’s being universally accepted," Rebelez added. "We feel we have a good menu of core items to start, and now we’re going to evolve off of that." New products beginning to roll out include breakfast items, such as a breakfast quesadilla and potato wedges.

    Dennis Phelps, vice president of fresh foods, told CSNews Online he and his team are working on a pipeline of products for up to two years from now. He believes there’s an opportunity for 7-Eleven to offer customers some of the fresh meal components that they are now buying at the local supermarket or Costco, such as toasted French bread.

    The hot foods program was launched in March as a pilot in approximately 100 Chesapeake, Va., area stores. Most of the items are prepared using high-speed TurboChef ovens and can be toasted and heated in just seconds, according to previous reports.

    Given the depressed state of the economy, Phelps said he’s heard from franchisees that they are excited to see something new in their stores, and are happy 7-Eleven is growing rather than cutting back in these times. "This is a bright spot for them," Phelps said.

    The hot foods lineup is also helping 7-Eleven to further its efforts to correct consumer misperceptions about the quality of fresh foods at convenience stores. "It’s an evolution," Rebelez said, adding the company is particularly focused on educating its franchisees about the program’s capabilities. "They’re the ones who are selling the customers."

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