DALLAS -- Using its established, successful breakfast and lunch programs as a springboard, Southland Corp. here has launched a test of dinner entrees at all its 7-Eleven stores in Queens and Long Island, N.Y.
Two varieties of freshly made, ready-to-heat entrees have been added to the company's Deli Central brand lineup which had previously consisted of sandwiches and salads.
The entrees, stuffed shells with meatballs and baked ziti with meatballs, are being featured in newspaper ads and with signs in-store.
More menu items are planned, officials said. Next up, to be added this month, will be two rice-based entrees, they said.
"We want to add some Spanish entrees, with rice and no sauce, to give customers more to choose from. The pastas have done well, even better than we had expected," said Sal Cangelosi, fresh food merchandising manager for Southland's Northeast division of 7-Eleven.
A total of 170 7-Eleven units are carrying the pasta entrees which are delivered twice a day from a Hauppauge, N.Y., commissary that makes them to Southland's specifications.
This is the company's first such rollout of heat-and-serve entrees, Cangelosi said.
"We do a wonderful job with our sub sandwiches and salads at lunchtime and we do a good breakfast business, but we want to get the dinner sales, too," he said.
"We decided to test them [the pasta entrees] here on Long Island because we have the opportunity to get twice-daily delivery." He added that the density of population on Long Island makes a good market for testing the items.
"We also have an excellent group of franchisees here. We saw little risk in doing this. And we started with pasta, because everybody likes it. I'm not so sure it would work with everything," Cangelosi said.
He said the menu would be kept to a roster of comfort foods that will be rotated. The pasta items are packed in microwavable trays with dome lids. A tape with the company's Deli Central proprietary label on it secures the top to the bottom and makes the package tamperproof, Cangelosi said. Each package weighs 16 ounces.
"They're meant to be single servings, but it's a big serving. We figured we would rather err on the side of value," the Southland executive said.
The everyday price is $4.49, but the products have been promoted with a $1-off coupon every other week since their launch earlier this summer.
A recent half-page ad in Newsday, a regional daily newspaper, features the items, along with an ad for hot wings and a fruit salad cup. The pasta items are advertised at their everyday price, but a tear-out coupon that's part of the ad offers $1 off the price of "any dinner entree or hot wings."
The ad is headlined, "7-Eleven now serving dinner." A line underneath says, "All products made and delivered fresh to our stores twice everyday. New Deli Central Take out so you can enjoy some."
In the stores, the entrees are merchandised in two 3-feet-wide, open-air refrigerated cases along with a selection of Deli Central salads and sub sandwiches. In addition to their display in the refrigerated cases, some of the 7-Eleven units are merchandising the entrees on a tray of ice next to the cash register and have found that tactic boosts sales of them, Cangelosi said.