Convenience retailer 7-Eleven introduced its Evolution Store concept in 2019. All seven Evolution Stores included a restaurant concept. When the chain opened its eighth Evolution Store in Manassas, Va., the company doubled down and included two proprietary QSR brands inside the unit. And 7-Eleven is just getting started.
“Today's opportunity is in the QSR space, and we are responding by aggressively rolling out our restaurants across the country — both in Evolution Stores and beyond,” says 7-Eleven Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Tanco. “Our plan is to open nearly 150 restaurants in 2021."
Each Evolution Store will serve as an experiential testing ground where customers can try and buy the retailer’s latest innovations in a pioneering format.
The chain’s QSR aspirations kicked off in 2018 when 7-Eleven acquired the Laredo Taco Company and the Stripes convenience store chain of South Texas as part of a 1,000-store acquisition from Sunoco.
Laredo Taco Company was the retailer’s first in-store QSR brand, but nowhere near the last. In 2020, 7-Eleven added Raise the Roost Chicken and Biscuits to its New York City location.
The latest Evolution Store in Virginia offers two restaurant concepts, a Raise the Roost Chicken and Biscuits unit and the debut of Parlor Pizza, a third QSR brand. The two restaurants sit side-by-side inside the store, with separate ordering counters and shared indoor and outdoor seating.
Laredo Taco Company offers tacos served on scratch-made flour tortillas and a fresh salsa bar with a selection of salsas and pico de gallo. Tacos and meals include specialties not always seen in quick-serve Mexican restaurants including barbacoa, chorizo, carne asada, carnitas and breakfast tacos.
Raise the Roost offers a simple menu of fried chicken tenders, biscuits, bone-in and boneless wings, chicken sandwiches, and breakfast sandwiches. The in-store restaurant offers both made-to-order and grab-and-go options.
Parlor features a full pizzeria menu and includes New York-style pizzas, calzones, garlic knots, pepperoni rolls, and hot and cold sub sandwiches. Customers can choose baked whole pizzas, slices or select made-to-order 18-inch hand-tossed pizzas. The menu also includes specialty pizzas with premium ingredients created by the restaurant. A conveyer-style oven ensures pizzas, calzones and other baked items are ready in minutes.
The design of the Evolution Stores allow them to serve as more than QSR outposts. Other menu offerings include made-to-order specialty drinks in a full-service beverage format that offers lattes, smoothies, agua frescas, cold brew coffee, as well as other novelty beverages; cookies, croissants and pastries baked on-site daily. The Cellar, an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers.
Technology plays a key role here, too. Customers can order and pay via the chain’s app and skip the checkout counter or have items delivered to their homes or offices. In addition, a self-serve kiosk offers headphones, tablets and other electronics for sale and an expanded selection of health and beauty products.
“These new stores are invaluable learning labs, where new concepts are tailored to meet the needs of the communities they will serve from sunny southern California to the fast-paced world of the East Coast,” says Tanco. “We will continue to evolve based on customer feedback and we look forward to creating the next generation of convenience together.”