NEW YORK -- Hoping to boost its share of the prepared-foods category and attract more women consumers, 7-Eleven has rolled out a new breakfast and lunch menu featuring an assortment of moderately priced, transportable sandwiches and snacks.
The convenience store chain is aiming to develop signature food items and is using higher-quality standards in developing the lines, Des Hague, 7-Eleven's new vice president of fresh foods, told SN last month during the company's 75th anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
"As we build more credibility, we'll expand the menu," he said.
Already, 7-Eleven's new Big Eats Deli sandwiches have captured attention.
Before the cold sandwiches made their way into the stores, the American Tasting Institute awarded the line a 2002 Gold Taste Award.
Rolled out earlier this month, the sandwich line consists of the classic chicken Caesar; stacked turkey club; smoked turkey and Jack cheese with Southwest mayo; hearty ham and cheddar with bourbon mustard sauce; chicken salad; tuna salad; and savory roast beef and bacon with Southwest mayo. Prices range from $2.99 to $3.29.
Also, the company's tried-and-true Big Bite hot dogs have new company on the grill. Dubbed Go-Go Taquitos, crispy tortillas are filled with spicy Mexican filling and assorted flavors and are part of the breakfast and lunch menus.
Officials developed the hot snack line with the country's fast-growing Hispanic population in mind, Hague said. The 99-cent taquitos made their store debut in June.
7-Eleven developed the items working with several leading food manufacturers, Hague said.
Now that the products are on the market, the next step is building credibility with consumers.
Gaining credibility is key, since 7-Eleven's food historically hasn't been the main draw that pulled consumers in, Hague conceded.
"We've sold vending machine-type products that were disgusting," he said. "It'll take some time to overcome perceptions."
The new program was "all built on quality and freshness."
Upon joining 7-Eleven one year ago, Hague immediately set out to create new products -- and eliminate items that didn't work.
An assortment of 200 sandwiches, including many regional items, was trimmed to just 10, Hague said. Approximately 500 to 600 stockkeeping units in the perishable food departments were eliminated.
Like many retailers, 7-Eleven is focusing more attention on fresh foods. Just 6% of 7-Eleven's business comes from the sale of those items, yet the category is the fastest-growing area of business, Hague said.
Selling lots of beer, cigarettes and gasoline made 7-Eleven a destination for men -- about 65% of the convenience store chain's customers are male. But the new menu items were developed specifically to appeal to women.
"We're not alienating our core customers but expanding our reach," Hague said.
Menu developers were thinking of women when they created chicken salad and chicken Caesar sandwiches.
Eventually, the company will expand the sandwich menu to include specialty breads such as flatbreads and ciabatta, and those products are expected to attract women as well, Hague said.
Furthermore, 7-Eleven enlisted some of the biggest names in the baking industry to develop a new line of baked goods, including snack-sized items, such as pound cake and banana cake, Hague said.