Consumers have grown used to drive-thrus, takeaway, curbside pick-up, grocery delis and convenience stores in their search for a decent meal. While the Chicken Sandwich Wars raged in the U. S. and restaurants closed during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 7-Eleven Canada saw an opportunity for same-store and unit growth by upping its hot food game with high-quality local products, freshly-prepared.
7-Eleven Canada operates over 600 stores, mostly in the Western provinces. Key locations offer a hot food menu that varies depending on the market and store footprint. Two types of countertop ovens were being used to heat various individually quick frozen (IQF) products and baked goods, along with roller grills for hot dogs and sausages.
Key to the new fresh food program would be a privately-branded fried chicken menu and a new approach to cooking, holding and display.
Serving hot food—even fried chicken—was nothing new to 7-Eleven Canada. But things were changing. The chain was determined to build a locally-sourced, high-value menu and improve operational excellence. That meant competing directly with global QSR brands in the chicken category.
Enter Crispy Classic Chicken, a 7-Eleven Canada private brand of fried chicken favorites billed as Your favourite chicken restaurant, right here in the neighbourhood. Cooking fresh breaded filets, tenders and bone-in chicken pieces required a significant upgrade in fryers. The key to delivering on the Crispy Classic Chicken program would be to consistently produce high quality fried chicken with fewer workers and less training. The challenge was finding a fryer that was efficient enough to recover temperature quickly while being easy to use and filter, and still fit comfortably in the available space.
Systematizing operations is just as important in the convenience store world as it is for QSRs. “Everything depends on the quality of the product we give our customers,” said Mathew Javan-Sehati, Senior Category Manager for 7-Eleven Canada. “Having the right equipment to deliver these products will be critical for our growth. Changing the fryer to Henny Penny is a new direction for us.”
That new direction came courtesy of DSL, a tried-and-true partner that has been supplying and servicing 7-Eleven Canada’s beverage equipment for more than 50 years. DSL has been an exclusive Henny Penny distributor for nearly as long. There was a lot of trust involved, which made it easier to go with one manufacturer for the key elements of the new program.
“After testing the Henny Penny system in select stores, we saw that the finished product was of a much higher quality than our current system,” said Javan-Sehati. “Holding time for the product also improved.”
The Henny Penny two-well deep fryer with Computron 8000 control and automatic basket lift checked all the boxes for Javan-Sehati. “The reliability, energy efficiency and oil savings are all good. But this fryer is also versatile and extremely easy to use,” he said. “Each menu item has the cooking parameters programmed in to its own Computron button. It couldn’t be simpler to operate.”
All new stores offering the Crispy Classic Chicken menu will use the Henny Penny fryer paired with a Henny Penny HMR merchandiser that combines beautiful, high-visibility display with precise temperature control and even heating throughout the case.
Select stores are also replacing a tabletop convection oven and a convection microwave oven with a compact Space$aver Team Combi oven from Henny Penny. A big selling point for the Space$aver Combi, according to Javan-Sehati, was being able to replace both conventional ovens. “We gain footprint, and staff only need to work with one piece of equipment to cook different foods.” The integrated hood also gives individual stores flexibility in locating the Team Combi on their floor plan.
The Space$aver Combi features two separately controlled five-rack ovens integrated vertically in a single unit. The two ovens have identical program menus, allowing operators to cook in volume and meet customer orders effectively. “This equipment gives us redundancy, flexibility, and simplicity,” said Javan-Sehati. “Being able to go directly to the Favorites mode makes it easy to cook anything on the menu.”
LK Chieh, Strategic Business Development Manager for DSL, led 7-Eleven through the process. “They went into this focused on serving a high-quality product to their customers,” said Chieh. “What they are getting is a major upgrade in quality and consistency, much simplified operation, and significant reduction in food waste.”
Javan-Sehati acknowledged the important role an alliance partner like DSL plays in helping 7-Eleven executing its foodservice strategy. “We truly appreciate not only the commitment of the Henny Penny brand, but as always, the selection, support and service solutions DSL provides to meet our needs.”
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