DALLAS — This is no typical 7-Eleven.
The company’s 6,300-square-foot lab store in Dallas features 7-Eleven brand staples such as Big Gulp and Slurpee. But it was built with a broader purpose: to “generate viable, innovative ideas, then test, learn and incorporate them into stores in the future,” says Chris Tanco, executive vice president and chief operating officer of 7-Eleven Inc.
“We want our customers to feel as though they are getting everything they want when they walk into a 7-Eleven store, from variety of products to experiences within the store,” he says.
From Scan & Pay technology and patio seating to a made-to-order coffee bar and cold-treat station, the store is a collection of standard c-store fare mixed with cutting-edge technology and merchandising areas intended to prove what works and what needs more time on the vine to ripen.
A New Take
Most of the platforms in the store were designed, created and built in-house by 7-Eleven, according to Tanco. Architecture firm CallisonRTKL Inc., Seattle, “helped bring the building design to life.” “The design gives customers more of an experience when they are shopping the store,” Tanco says. “There is a heritage wall that nods to the lab store’s location being less than 2 miles from the original Southland Ice House in Oak Cliff, better known as the first location where 7-Eleven pioneered the convenience retailing concept more than 90 years ago.”
There are also two murals painted by a Dallas artist that pay homage to 7-Eleven hero products such as Slurpee, Big Gulp and Big Bite, as well as the retailer’s Texas beginnings. “Customers not only have an opportunity to try our new platforms but can also enjoy our staple products … and experience them in a way that feels fresh and new,” Tanco says.
Some highlights of that experience:
- Made-to-order coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and aguas frescas.
- The Cellar, an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers.
- A growler station that features a rotating selection of local craft beers, ciders and ales on tap.
- A frozen-treats bar with frozen yogurt, ice cream and multiple toppings.
- Cookies, croissants and other products baked in-store daily.
- Scan & Pay technology that allows customers to skip the checkout line and pay for their (non-age-restricted) purchases on their smartphones.
- Restaurant-style indoor and patio seating.
The new store is also the first 7-Eleven in Dallas to feature the Laredo Taco Company foodservice brand, which 7-Eleven acquired along with the Stripes c-store chain from Sunoco in 2018.
“Laredo Taco Company [is] famous for its handmade tortillas made from scratch in stores every day as well as its popular salsa bar with on-site, daily prepared salsas, guacamole and pico de gallo,” Tanco says. “Tacos, quesadillas and plate meals include specialties not always seen in quick-serve Tex-Mex restaurants, such as carne guisada, barbacoa, picadillo bistec, carnitas and breakfast tacos made with hand-cracked eggs.”
Other foodservice options include packaged sandwiches, soups and, of course, roller-grill items.
While a self-serve coffee and tea bar is available, the Dallas concept is also the first 7-Eleven store to feature made-to-order coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices and aguas frescas, according to the company.
The beverage lineup offers customizable drinks in a full-service beverage format. Customers can also grab drinks on tap, such as nitro cold brew, kombucha and organic teas.
And as more Amazon Go and other frictionless retail concepts sprout up across the country, the lab gives 7-Eleven the opportunity to test Scan & Pay technology. Customers can make non-age-restricted purchases directly by scanning products with their smartphones.
This technology is deployed at the c-store’s Sweet Cold Treats bar, which invites customers to customize frozen yogurt or ice cream with an assortment of sweet and savory toppings. The store has posted QR codes near the cups and cones where customers can scan to pay for their items.
In a way, the future of this lab store is the future of 7-Eleven. But it won’t be the only site where the Irving, Texas-based chain will test new concepts.
“7-Eleven plans to open other lab stores in geographically dispersed markets across the United States,” Tanco says. “We will study sales results, shopping trends and customer feedback to help determine the innovations that could launch in other stores around the country.
“Our hope is that successful innovations will be incorporated into the new store standard,” he continues, “and retrofitted into current stores where they fit.”
Size: 6,300 square feet
Address: 1805 Sylvan Ave., Dallas
Fueling spots: 20 fueling positions
Opened: March 2019
- Beer growler station
- Kombucha, cold-pressed juices, aguas frescas on tap
- Sweet Cold Treats Bar
- Made-to-order coffee drinks
- Scan & Pay technology
- First Laredo Taco Company site in Dallas
DALLAS —7-Eleven's new lab store was designed with a unique facade to match the collection of experimental retailing programs offered inside.
Laredo Taco Company serves a variety of Tex-Mex menu items. Marketing around the store highlights the tortillas made fresh on-site.