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7-Eleven Reinvents Itself to Meet Shifting Customer Expectations, Becoming One of the Year's Top Franchises A $21 billion acquisition, thriving delivery program, and new restaurant concepts are just a few of the company's recent ventures, which landed them the #9 spot on our Franchise 500 ranking.

By Blaire Briody

entrepreneur daily

This story appears in the January 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of 7-Eleven

Started franchising: 1964 Total units: 77,346 Cost to open: $69.7K-$1.2M

In a typical year, 7-Eleven opens a few hundred new locations. By contrast, 2021 was a biggie: In May the company acquired Speedway, the convenience shop arm of Marathon Petroleum, and that added 3,800 stores to its portfolio. The $21 billion acquisition brought 7-Eleven's total store count to more than 77,000 around the world, 13,000 of which are in the U.S. And that helped it land in the Top 10 for the 29th time in company history.

While other convenience stores closed during the pandemic, 7-Eleven was well positioned when COVID-19 hit, having launched a delivery app, 7NOW, in 2018. Not only did the company's delivery business skyrocket 500% in 2020, but it doubled in 2021 as "convenience" came to no longer mean open 24/7 and at every corner, but also available right there at your doorstep. Today, 95% of 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. and Canada offer delivery, with more products and groceries being added all the time, including over-the-counter medicines, pizza, beer, and wine. The company also introduced a 7-Eleven Wallet in late 2020 for customers to pay with preloaded funds and redeem rewards and expanded its mobile checkout services.

Related: 7-Eleven's Winning Pandemic Plan: Extra Toilet Paper, Beer Delivery, and Lots Of Convenience

In 2021, 7-Eleven accelerated its advancement into the QSR space by opening nearly 150 new restaurants. Some of them are housed in the company's new "Evolution Stores," each one unique. In March it opened the Laredo Taco Company drive-through in Dallas, where customers can order beef barbacoa with a Slurpee. In May it debuted another Evolution Store in Manassas, Virginia, that combines convenience staples with two restaurants serving everything from fried chicken tenders and fresh flaky biscuits to calzones and garlic knots. This store is the first to give customers a taste of the company's Sips and Snacks program, where entrepreneurs' innovative products are voted on by franchisees and company employees. (Winners include Roar, Bitchin' Sauce, and Mush.) "The world we live in has drastically changed over the past year," says Chris Tanco, executive vice president and COO, "including the expectations and lifestyles of customers."

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