Convenience retailer 7-Eleven opened a “lab” store in its hometown of Dallas on March 22. The company describes it as a place where customers can “try and buy the retailer’s latest innovations in a revolutionary new store format.”
The Dallas lab store—the only one in the U.S.—is located at the Sylvan | Thirty retail and restaurant development on Sylvan Avenue, north of I-30. It’s less than two miles from the original Southland Ice House in Oak Cliff where 7-Eleven pioneered the convenience retailing concept more than 90 years ago.
The lab store offers things like made-to-order smoothies and aguas frescas; street tacos on handmade tortillas; a growler refill station stocked with local craft beers; baked-in-store cookies and croissants; and patio and inside dining areas.
“Convenience retailing is light years away from the days of bread and milk being sold from ice docks in 1927, and the industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before,” said Chris Tanco, 7-Eleven EVP and COO. “7-Eleven stays at the forefront by pushing the boundaries and being unafraid to try new things. 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.”
The lab store is also the first 7-Eleven location to incorporate the Laredo Taco Company taqueria, and the first Laredo Taco Company location in Dallas. 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.
Laredo Taco Company is known in South Texas for its handmade tortillas made from scratch in stores every day as well as its popular salsa bar with on-site, daily prepared salsas, guacamole and pico de gallo. Tacos, quesadillas and plate meals include specialties not always seen in quick-serve Tex-Mex restaurants such as carne guisada, barbacoa, picadillo bistec, carnitas and breakfast tacos made with hand-cracked eggs. There is indoor and patio restaurant-style seating in the Laredo Taco Company portion of the store as well as bar-seating across the front windows in the retail space.
In addition to smoothies and aguas frescas, the store offers made-to-order coffee drinks and cold-pressed juices as well as novelty beverages on tap such as nitro cold brew, kombucha and organic teas.
“The Cellar” is the name of the alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers. The growler station which is near The Cellar, features a rotating selection of local craft beer, cider and ales on tap. Customers can buy a beverage to have with their meal onsite or fill a growler to take home.
The store also has a cold treats bar with frozen yogurt, ice cream and multiple toppings.
Digital initiatives enhance the shopping experience, according to 7-Eleven. Scan & Pay technology allows customers to skip the checkout line and pay for their (non-age-restricted) purchases on their smartphones.
Many of the new items in this 7-Eleven “innovation station” are limited-time offerings.
“A lot has changed in retail and continues to change rapidly, especially the shopping experience,” Tanco said. “This lab store is customer-focused and will explore new ideas that weren’t even on the retail radar a few months ago.”
The new 7-Eleven lab store is also providing local jobs, and the company is looking for outgoing, customer-service-oriented employees for this innovative new retail-restaurant concept. To join the Sylvan | Thirty location as a sales or restaurant associate, interested people can apply online at: https://careers-7-eleven.icims.com. Under “Start your job search here,” input 54716 for sales associate or 54817 for restaurant associate.
Based in the Dallas suburb of Irving, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.