Hungry for Hot Food

7-Eleven whets Midwest franchisees' appetites for its new foodservice offer

Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

VILLA PARK, Ill. -- Many 7-Eleven franchisees in the Chicago area got their first look at the Dallas-based company's new hot-foods offer this week, just as it begins to roll out in the market.

With the first local stores set to introduce the new products in early June, the 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Association of Chicagoland (FOAC) Trade Show, held yesterday Villa Park, Ill., highlighted the foodservice offer of chicken wings, chicken tenders and pizza with a full aisle of the trade-show floor dedicated to the program.

"I'm looking forward to it [coming to my market]," [image-nocss] Linda Russ, a one-store franchisee who came in from Royal Oak, Mich., to attend the trade show, told CSP Daily News. "People go to a fast-food restaurant and they have all this variety. We don't have that, in my opinion. [I welcome] the opportunity to have wings, chicken and pizza, along with the Taquitos and fresh sandwiches we have now."

The Midwestalong with 7-Eleven's Chesapeake regionis one of the last major markets to introduce the foodservice offer, according to Mohammad Iqbal, the company's category manager for fresh foods.

Currently about 1,600 7-Eleven stores are using the program, and that number will grow as "we add these last few regions and as other franchisees see it elsewhere in their markets and [strive] to meet the required standards," Iqbal told CSP Daily News.

Syed Jaffry, a franchisee with one store in Mt. Prospect, Ill., is one retailer who already knows he won't meet those standards. "It's a very good program," he told CSP Daily News, while also acknowledging, "My store isn't large enough; I don't have the space [required]."

Four basic requirements must be met to qualify for the program, Iqbal said: Business Sense. Has the retailer shown he or she has the necessary understanding of sales data and inventory to make the program work? Space. While the required space is relatively minimalsix pieces of equipment on the store floor and one freezer in backIqbal, acknowledging Jaffry's issue, said smaller stores will not be eligible. Customer Count. 7-Eleven has set levels necessary to make the investment in the foodservice program worthwhile. Store Cleanliness. Meet some basic standards or forget about foodservice. Iqbal said franchisees who request the program will be reviewed to see if they meet the standards and told where they fall short, if they do.

"So they have an opportunity to improve cleanliness or store count and come back to us in six months [to be reviewed again]," Iqbal said.

Elsewhere on the trade show floor, more than 200 franchisees got a look at products from about 120 exhibitors, including major brands and smaller vendors, as well as 7-Eleven's own line of proprietary products, this year including beer (Game Day Ice and Light), flavored sodas (berry, grape, punch and orange) and ready-to-drink iced teas (peach, sweet and lemon).

7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto also spoke, pledging more new private-label products on the way, a dedication to foodservice, an improved coffee bar and expansion of services offered in stores. And hegreeted franchisees (pictured).

But the point wasn't to just see what's new; it was to choose the products that will stock the franchisees' shelves in the coming year.

"This isn't a 'showing' show," said 7-Eleven FOAC president Joe Rossi in welcoming his membership to the event. "This is a 'buying' show."

Steve Holtz, CSP/Winsight By Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News
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