And, by analyzing his sales on the 7-Eleven’s computer system, Ngyuen knows his most-popular items are Big Bites and tuna- and chicken-salad sandwiches. He typically orders several of those and then one or two newer products he hopes will catch on with customers.
“When we have a new item, I’m always thinking, ‘What can I do to help put this in a customer’s mouth,’” Ngyuen says. “Sometimes I will give a customer a whole sandwich to try. It’s a $2 investment that might help me gain a customer for life.”
In with the New
There’s never a shortage of fresh foods for Ngyuen’s customers to taste. 7-Eleven introduces 25 new products to its stores weekly.
“Eighty percent of 7-Eleven’s 5 million customers a day in the U.S. shop at 7-Eleven for something to eat or drink,” Phelps says, “and we want to continue offering products that satisfy them.”
Some of the new items are introduced nationwide, some regionally. For instance, you’ll find new sushi-type products in stores in California, new Cuban sandwiches in Florida, new cheesecake doughnuts in the Northeast, and the new carnitas pitas in Colorado. In Ngyuen’s Dallas store, breakfast burritos are a hit. Both the chorizo as well as the potato, bacon, and cheese varieties are popular with customers accustomed to the flavors of Tex-Mex.
So how does the chain come up with so many new products? It doesn’t. Its vendors do. In June, 7-Eleven held its third-ever “Innovation Day.” Suppliers from around the country—some who’ve worked with the company for decades and others new—were invited to the company’s Dallas headquarters to present what they think could be the next product to find Slurpee-like success.
“Our goal is to have first-mover advantage in our channel or exclusivity for some limited period of time,” Phelps says. “Customers want something new, fresh, and fun that satisfies their daily needs, and we strive to meet this.”
One of 7-Eleven’s hottest initiatives this year will be the introduction of its new fast-cook oven. Think of your daughter’s Easy Bake Oven on steroids.
Some stores nationwide are now offering chicken tenders, BBQ wings, and cinnamon-covered churros—all made-to-order in two minutes or less. And what 7-Eleven hopes really takes the cake are its new pizza pies. Whole pizzas, promoted as a hurry-home dinner option, are cooked in 90 seconds and sold for $9.99. They’ll also be sold by the slice.
“7-Eleven competes with many businesses that sell similar products,” Phelps says. “What we do is offer products more conveniently.”
Also new is how some of 7-Eleven’s fresh foods are packaged.
“The new packaging offers a fresher, greener look,” Phelps says.
Not only are the food labels now literally green, but the boxes the food is packaged in are figuratively green. Sandwiches are sealed in recycled cardboard containers. Company execs say their new packages and labeling are keeping up with consumer trends—they provide an environmentally friendly, cleaner presentation that gives more focus to the product.
More than half of those who walk into a 7-Eleven walk out with a drink. So it’s no wonder the world’s largest convenience store retailer is also pouring attention on its new beverage offerings. It recently took two of its long-time big sellers—coffee and Slurpees—and combined them. The Slurpuccino, which is first being offered in two flavors, is now in stores. So are the new Energy Slurpees, two flavors of iced coffees, and Midnight Madness Hot Chocolate.
And the company is disproving the belief that convenience stores are nothing more than quick-stops for cold beer.
7-Eleven premium wines might sound like an oxymoron, but the proprietary bottles are featured in stores across the country. Sonoma Crest and Thousand Oaks wines are both manufactured exclusively for the convenience retailer. Earlier this year, Wine Enthusiast magazine recognized Sonoma Crest’s new chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon varieties as “best buys.” And for many stores like Ngyuen’s, wines now make up a significant part of their alcohol sales.
Reason No. 4
According to Ngyuen, the freshness, quality, and variety of his offerings are just as good, if not better than what’s on the menu at nearby quick-service restaurants. The fourth and final reason he’s giving many of those restaurants a run for their customers’ money is money itself. You don’t need as much of it to eat at 7-Eleven.