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7-Eleven announced that it will attempt to improve sales by focusing on meal solutions.

"One of the biggest things will be getting over the [image] in the consumers' minds of what convenience store food is," Des Hague, 7-Eleven’s vice president of fresh foods, told the LAT. But "we expect fresh food to represent a pretty meaningful percentage of our growth."

"The lunch hour has shrunk from 60 minutes to 20-odd minutes," Hague added. "That's put consumers under tremendous stress. We are trying to differentiate ourselves with high-quality portable foods."

Offerings will range from fresh-made seafood salads to enchiladas and California rolls, as well as microwaveable meals such as lasagna, fettuccine, and Szechwan beef bowls. Prices will range from $2.49 to $5.99 for some higher-end salads.

In a related development, Sheetz Inc., the 280-unit c-store chain that has built a loyal following for its sub and sandwich program over the years, is testing new at-the-pump touchscreen technology that will encourage shoppers to order a sandwich at the pump, and then go inside to retrieve it.

For the c-store industry, prepared foods make up 13 percent of sales, excluding gasoline revenue, but generate 25 percent of profits.
KC's View:
As we’ve written before, the c-store business is focusing much of its efforts on two areas, meal solutions and loyalty marketing, that are well-worn territory for the supermarket industry. They’re doing so in part because of declining and disappearing gasoline margins, which are occurring because supermarket retailers (and warehouse clubs and discounters) are getting into the gasoline business in order to generate traffic.

On top of this, Jack In The Box is starting to open c-stores adjacent to its fast food restaurants. And c-stores are installing branded fast food operations inside their four walls.

So, the confluence of formats continues unabated.

Everybody wants the same business, the same customers, and is using many of the same methods to obtain them.

So when will the real innovation start? And what will it be?