Testing, Testing: Take A Cue From 7-Eleven’s New Lab Store

Posted On: 6/14/2019

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Paul Schlossberg
Do you have an “experimental store” where you can try out new and different things? 7-Eleven, which operates 11,800 stores in the U.S., recently opened its new 7-Eleven Lab Store in west Dallas, TX. This store is different from your local 7-Eleven. Convenience Store Decisions reported that features of the new store include:

>> Made-to-order coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and agua frescas

>> Novelty beverages on tap such as nitro cold brew, kombucha and organic teas

>> An expanded selection of wines and craft beers, with a growler station and a rotating selection of local craft beer and cider on tap

>> A cold treats bar with frozen yogurt, ice cream and toppings

>> Pastries baked-in-store daily

>> Scan and pay technology and other digital initiatives

>>  Indoor, patio and bar seating

Chris Tanco, 7-Eleven executive vice-president and chief operating officer was quoted as saying “The industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before. This new lab store will serve as a place to test, learn and iterate new platforms and products to see what really resonates with customers and how we can use those learnings to influence future store designs.”

This is 7-Eleven’s first time to build-in the Laredo Taco Co. It is well-known and very popular in south Texas. There are handmade tortillas and a salsa bar. 7-Eleven acquired the taqueria along with Stripes convenience stores in South Texas as part of the 1,000-store acquisition from Sunoco in 2018. The convenience store giant plans to open at least five more lab stores according to Eater. We found an interesting report about the new store at Guide Live (guidelive.com) – “7 surprising things about the 7-Eleven 'lab store' in West Dallas.” After reading that, the new 7-Eleven Lab Store will be on my itinerary the next time we are in Dallas.

By now, as usual, you’re wondering: What does this have to do with my business? Please allow me to inquire about your lab store? Which one of your operating sites is your experimental store? Oh, you don’t have a lab store. Where do you test new products, new equipment and new peripheral devices?

Working on a client project in the Charlotte, NC, area, we visited a location serving about 350 people on a typical day. The workflow at this site could vary between 100 and 500 people depending on seasonal needs. This was a vending-only operation. It was about 15 years ago -- before micromarkets were on the scene.

The location management was interested in innovative vending equipment and products. We worked with the site host and the operator to deploy new vending equipment and introduce some new food and snack products.

You need a lab store, maybe more than one, in the words of 7-Eleven’s COO, “to see what really resonates with customers and how we can use those learnings to influence future” vending, micromarket and OCS deployments. It’s time for our industry to be a leader in innovative store features and design.

Think about where and how you could operate your own lab store. It might be another step on the path to selling more stuff.

PAUL SCHLOSSBERG is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at Paul@DFWConsulting.net, (972) 877-2972 or DFWConsulting.net.