7-Eleven is a company built on innovation and changing to meet the needs of its customers. From its earliest days, debuting as an icehouse in Dallas, Texas in 1927, it expanded to 16 locations where customers also could purchase milk, eggs and bread (at the suggestion of an astute employee), eventually evolving into one of the largest retail brands in the world with some 83,000 c-store and gas locations across 19 countries.
Recent activity at 7-Eleven Canada reflects the evolution of the company, now a one-stop shop with a food-first focus, as it looks to give a new generation of Canadian consumers unique and expanded food, beverage and in-store dining options.
“There’s no doubt that over the past decade, 7-Eleven’s business has evolved. We’re much more than just a traditional convenience store,” says Marc Goodman, vice-president and general manager of 7-Eleven Canada. “A shift like this isn’t something that happens overnight; overnight; we’ve been at this for a while along with our international counterparts globally and constantly learning along the way.”
A fresh start
Goodman joined the company in 2021 as senior director of operations, before taking over the top job last summer, breaking ground as the first Canadian to lead the business here in Canada. He previously spent 23 years at Suncor where he served as head of loyalty and marketing partnerships, head of category management and head of employee experience.
As a leader, Goodman strikes the right balance—deep experience across the business, combined with a fresh approach.
“7-Eleven Canada is constantly evolving to anticipate, meet and exceed Canadians’ needs,” says Goodman, reflecting on his first year at the helm. “Since taking on this role, I’d say most of the changes that have taken place are behind the scenes, with the goal of being the first choice for convenience for our customers and the communities, while also attracting, developing, and retaining our team members.”
Meeting consumers’ needs goes beyond merely innovating a little here and there, to redefining the very core of the business.
“We’re gradually changing the customer perception that 7-Eleven is a food destination that also happens to sell convenience store items,” says Goodman, adding this is reflected in recent growth of food and beverage sales.
The future is food
A restaurant that also sells convenience items? It’s a bold statement, but 7-Eleven’s shift reflects a steady movement across convenience and gas, whereby companies—both chains and independents—are looking for ways to replace traditional (declining) revenue streams, particularly tobacco. Food and ancillary categories (beverages, both with and without alcohol) are the future.
This is happening as c-store shoppers are evolving, too. Where once having a good selection of quick grab-and-go items on hand was enough, shifting wants, needs and values have consumers expecting more, from freshly prepared meals to high-quality and locally sourced foods and beverages.
Today, 7-Eleven Canada is firmly rooted a food-first business that boasts more than 130 fresh food and beverage options, which Goodman says are prepared on-location and at the company’s food commissaries under the careful director of food and beverage category managers, as well as a resident chef.
“Canadian customers have told us they want healthy, craveable food, including organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and plant-based options,” says Goodman.
7-Eleven is delivering on these expectations and experimenting with innovative menu items. For instance, in January 2023, 7-Eleven announced a new partnership with Violife, a plant-based cheese brand and launched its first fully plant-based breakfast sandwich, made with plant-based eggs from California-based company, Just Egg, plant-based sausage from California-based Impossible Foods and Violife’s proprietary plant-based cheddar.
Around the same time, the company launched several take-out meals with vegan steak, including the Southwestern Plant-Based Steak Wrap and Mexican Plant-Based Steak Wrap. The wraps were made with Vancouver-based Wamame Foods’ plant-based Waygu strips.
Other healthier and better-for-you options include 7-Select Juice Shots, produced with Calgary-based Well. The aptly named “Antioxidant Wellness Shot” combines beet, camu-camu, lemon, orange and moringa juices.
These strategic partnerships have helped 7-Eleven Canada establish an edge in the c-store food arena. Make no mistake, however, 7-Eleven isn’t abandoning its culinary roots—the iconic Slurpee continues to be at the forefront of its offerings, as are fan favourites, such as the Crispy Classic Chicken, Big Bite hot dogs, taquitos and Canadian-made pizza, which exist alongside a refrigerated display case stocked with fresh locally made sandwiches, fruits and snacks, as well as baked goods, like cookies and croissants.
“We’re not so much growing our menu, as continually improving it to meet the flavour profile and trends that our customers are looking for, as well as introducing innovative limited time offers,” says Goodman.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Convenience Store News Canada.