7-Eleven Takes Chicago

Franchisee tradeshow highlights new products, focus on foodservice, Slurpee

SKOKIE, Ill. -- Growing foodservice options, a bevy of Slurpee introductions and the beginning of a renewed, mutually beneficial relationship—These are just some of the highlights Chicago-area 7-Eleven franchisees pointed out during Thursday's 7-Eleven Franchise-Owner Association of Chicagoland (FOAC) tradeshow.

"Today, we talked about 7-Eleven's spring and summer sales plan," Bill Nolan, sales and marketing director for 7-Eleven's Great Lakes Division, told CSP Daily News. "It's going to be a great year for Slurpee. We're going to be bringing out a number of items, starting in April [image-nocss] with Amp Slurpee, and then moving through the year with a Full Throttle Slurpee, and movie tie-in programs that we're going to have for the rest of the year."

Nolan added in his keynote speech at the conference held in Skokie, Ill., that Dallas-based 7-Eleven is putting an added emphasis on fresh foods this year.

"Our fresh-food program is very important to 7-Eleven," he said. "We have a number of new fresh-food items, from a reformulated blueberry muffin, a 100% butter croissant that's going to be coming out later this year, and also some great sandwiches that we're going to use to regionalize our assortment here in Chicago to cater to local food and taste preferences."

On the tradeshow floor, franchisees also got a glimpse at new 7-Eleven fruit cups, bakery items, such as doughnuts, pastries and a chocolate-chip powdered-sugar brownie, and sandwiches, like the triple-decker pastrami and corned beef on maple rye. From vendors, they saw 32-ounce energy drinks and craft beers with special connections to Chicago.

But for FOAC president Hashim Syed, who took leadership of the association in January and pulled the cozy tradeshow together in less than a month, the show represented more than an opportunity to see new products and services.

"Our organization's relationship with the 7-Eleven company was not all that pleasant all the time," he told CSP Daily News. "And when I was given this duty, I felt whatever happened in the past, we have to forget that and move forward. And I saw a great opportunity to form an alliance with the vendors, the 7-Eleven company and franchisees. These are the three major players. So I thought if these three major players can work together—at times we will not see things eye to eye, but we don't have to get stuck on the one thing that we don't agree about. Leave that alone and move on with the other things that have a common ground."

Ultimately, Syed said he has big visions for 7-Eleven in Chicago, which, with the purchase of White hen in late 2006, recently grew from about 200 stores to 380 in the area.

"I really believe with the kind of power 7-Eleven has now, we are the only game in town [in Chicago]," he said, "and if these three [entities] come together, it will be extremely hard to beat."

Syed said 75 vendors set up booths at last week's tradeshow, and more than 200 franchisees attended.

"I am very pleasantly surprised that this tradeshow is the most successful one so far in terms of participation. We had to say no to some of the vendors," he said. "I'm not taking personal credit for that. It's the power of 7-Eleven that commands that attention."

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