Are We At A Crossroads?
Being a 7-Eleven franchisee means the primary service we provide is convenience. Our stores are known as the place our guests could come to pick up whatever they need—from food items like milk and bread to coffee, cigarettes, beer, snacks, and much more—24 hours a day. However, as economics and times have changed, we are now at a crossroads.
Cigarettes and alcoholic beverages have always been our main sales drivers, but that is no longer the case thanks to new laws governing these items. As such, SEI is telling us we can no longer depend on cigarettes and beer to increase our sales and profits. This is where the crossroads come in, but are we ready to meet it?
Our customers are still looking for convenience, but the definition of the word has changed. All of the items I mentioned above are still a part of our business, but our customer is also depending on us for more than just that one-time-a-day stop. So going forward, we can take out the word “convenience” and replace it with the word “destination.”
As we evolve to offer more hot and fresh foods, our stores are becoming a destination where our customers can come in for more than coffee, milk, and snacks. Needless to say, change is difficult for some. It’s easier to accept for others, but nevertheless the change is here.
The truth is we can’t stand idly by as our competition expands their product selection. Other retailers like pharmacy chains and dollar store chains have gotten into selling food products that we never thought they would, but they are. Our future is now, and we have to stay ahead of our competitors by making sure we meet and exceed our guests’ hot foods expectations and needs.
We all realize there is an investment that must be made in any program or rollout a retailer executes. In a franchised system like ours, new programs need to be embraced and fully supported by franchisees, and sold to our guests, especially the awareness of it. If executed properly, that new program can bring you the same results as the core items that first attracted you to the c-store business. It’s not like you’re going to become a restaurateur because of hot foods, because all those other products you currently sell—the cooler items, snacks, chips—they are all inclusive. Executed properly, the hot foods program will allow you to maintain the overall sales increases and your store will be known as a “destination,” no longer just a “convenience.”
With government regulations and minimum wage increases occurring in cities and states nationwide, we are at the point now where we all need to embrace the system in order to increase our sales and profits. There have been some great results from the food service rollouts. Some stores have not have the positive results that they were looking for, but in the end, it is our future. We need to fully evaluate the labor dedicated to hot foods and other aspects to make sure that the program is profitable. Otherwise, our competitors will swoop ahead of us.
SEI is definitely not off the hook on this—when we signed our franchise agreements, we entered into a partnership. Besides helping us overcome the minimum wage increases, I believe our franchisor has an obligation to help us tailor the hot foods program to our local areas so we can maximize its profitability.