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Joe DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven, opened the 2013 Restaurant Leadership Conference last evening with a shot across the bow to the restaurant operators in the room. He was extremely clear.  He and his team get up every day and focus on selling more food and beverage.  More than 80% of 7-Eleven guests go there to eat or drink.  They sell one million cups of coffee a every day, and ring up over $500 million dollars in annual hot food sales.  According to Joe, 7-Eleven is “operating in a way today to support our GOAL of “Selling More Food”.

The company has made massive investments in a building a fresh food infrastructure, along with spending almost a billion dollars to upgrade and remodel their convenience stores.  In a world where an increasingly demanding, mobile, time starved and yes, health conscious consumer seeks options, Joe and his team are working hard to steal market share from restaurants.

Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Dollar General – yes Dollar General – are all expanding their offerings in fresh prepared foods for immediate consumption.  As we have frequently reported in Black Box Intelligence, the restaurant industry has been stuck in neutral comp store sales and negative traffic since 2007.  Joe made it very clear last evening that the competition is no longer just the restaurant across the street.  By the way, 7-Eleven is also working hard to create a culture that will attract the best employees too.  A professed servant leader, Joe has baked that model into every process in their brand that touches an employee.  They know that you can’t succeed in the marketplace without a workplace that supports those goals.

I am blogging from the 2013 Restaurant Leadership Conference, a gathering of over 1700 foodservice operators and suppliers, hosted by GE Capital, McLane, NCR, Pepsico and Restaurant Business.