New York-The $290 billion sales industry is dominated by 7-Eleven. Its strategy to remain top dog: coffee. The Dallas-based company, which operates about 5,800 stores in the U.S. and 19,000 more worldwide, announced that its stores' coffee stations are getting an upscale makeover.

7-Eleven has been selling coffee to go by the cup for more than 40 years, but it recently lost its grip on the sector as it failed to catch the industry's trend toward customization.

The company says its coffee stations have long had different brews, cappuccinos and cocoa. But the consumer perception unfortunately remains that 7-Eleven offers only basic coffee. The new program is meant to remedy that impression.

7-Eleven derives about 5 percent of its $10 billion yearly sales from its coffee operations, according to Merrill Lynch analyst Mark Husson.

At 7-Eleven's new "hot beverage stations," customers will have a choice of more than 1,300 combinations. A minimum of five varieties of coffee, four flavored syrups, seven different tea bags, five toppings, creamers, sweeteners and all types of milk will be available at each station. 7-Eleven's customers will make the drinks themselves, guided by store suggestions, thus avoiding waiting in line to order. The drinks will cost about $1 per cup instead of the typical coffeehouse prices hovering between $3 and $4.

7-Eleven says each store is in charge of appropriately staffing the stations. Since the chain is a franchise, it doesn't impose the new program on its members. But "over 95 percent of our franchisees are participating," the company says. -Forbes.com