7-Eleven Just Bought Hundreds Of Mexican Restaurants

Is the convenience store ready to become a fast food chain?

Convenience stores have been upping their game, blurring the lines between fast food and "gas station" food in recent years. 7-Eleven has just taken a major step in potentially transforming its reputation as a convenience store chain into a full-blown restaurant business, trade publication CSP Daily News reports.

7-Eleven has just spent $1 billion on the purchase of 204 Stripes Convenience Stores from gas company Sunoco LP. As part of the deal, 7-Eleven also acquires every outlet of Laredo Taco Company currently hosted at Stripes locations. Sunoco had already sold more than 1,000 convenience stores to 7-Eleven back in 2018, and this newest acquisition makes 7-Eleven the sole owner of both the Stripes and Laredo Taco Company brands.

"We're excited to welcome the remaining Stripes stores and Laredo Taco Co. restaurants to the family," said 7-Eleven's CEO Joe DePinto in a press release about the acquisition. "And we look forward to serving even more customers across West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma." The majority of the acquired restaurants are located throughout those three states.

7-Eleven first began expanding its horizons with Laredo Taco Company back in 2021 when it opened a drive-thru window at a corporate-owned location in Dallas. In addition to the tacos, breakfast tacos, bowls, sides, and aguas frescas offered by Loredo Taco Company, customers could also pick up 7-Eleven items like Slurpees in the drive-thru.

The convenience store chain has continued evolving its brand through the Laredo Taco Company since then. In 2022, 7-Eleven opened an Evolution Store prototype, which included a full Laredo Taco Company restaurant complete with a patio, beer, wine, and frozen margaritas.

The chain's growing footprint may be coming at the perfect time, as customers turn to convenience store food as an affordable meal option. Data collected by food service intelligence company Technomic, reported by Restaurant Business in 2023, showed that 54% of convenience store patrons were reducing restaurant visits due to cost, but only 30% said they were buying food from convenience stores less often for the same reason.

Donna Hood Crecca of Technomic told Restaurant Business that customers aren't cutting back as much on convenience store food because they find value in the offerings, and if convenience stores are going to gain more food service customers, they'd likely be taking them from the fast food market.

This shift in what consumers value, combined with the sheer popularity of Mexican cuisine in the U.S., could mean tacos are 7-Eleven's golden ticket into the fast food category.