7-Eleven Wants Your Fast-Food Dollars

7-Eleven storeHanging out at the local 7-Eleven may not be just for teens anymore.

The convenience store that invented the Slurpee and made the Big Gulp famous is revamping its food selection for hungry diners who don't have the time or money to stop at a fast-food restaurant.Aiming to sell food that's better than what you'd expect at a convenience store (like those hot dogs rotating on those metal rollers all day long), 7-Eleven is launching a menu of "signature" food items. The new menu items include new sauce flavors for chicken wings, which are 50% larger; a pretzel/croissant breakfast sandwich with egg and ham; and Angus beef hot dogs, according to the Dallas Morning News. The items are either being tested or are slated to roll out later this year.

Oh thank heaven... Forget the dollar menu at McDonald's, I'm going to 7-Eleven for lunch. Or at least for its brand of wine.

The company hopes to grow food sales by 10% this year -- more than double the typical 3% to 4%. The top seller at 7-Eleven and all convenience stores is cigarettes, which bring in nearly 36% of all in-store sales. (I knew there was something more than Slurpees that attracted teens to the stores). Food services bring in about 17% of sales.

But that's not all 7-Eleven is doing to get more people through its doors. Earlier this week, it announced 7-Eleven TV in its stores. The broadcast TV network is in 500 stores and will be rolled out to all 6,200 locations. It will feature local news and weather reports, along with 7-Eleven commercials, just in case you forget where you are while eating the new, meatier buffalo wings.

And if you don't happen to see the TV broadcast while shopping, you'll probably hear it. Something called "Sound Shower" speakers are being installed to make sure of that.

Next time you're stopping for gas or a snack at a 7-Eleven, the company hopes you'll stay for a meal to go instead of burning gas to get to a restaurant. In a recession where every dollar counts, that look of hungry desperation as you walk into a 7-Eleven may just disappear.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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