“There is Nothing Like It in Israel”: Seven Eleven Arrives in Israel

After tens of thousands of the American convenience store chain’s branches, it is coming to Israel and will try to bring good news to the Israeli consumer: Self-service, a variety of meals and food products around the clock, and an American consumer experience - How much will a coffee cost you there?

Israel Hayom

By Tzviya Blum  6/1/2023

The moment that you enter one of the Seven Eleven stores in the U.S., the salespeople will welcome you with a big smile, say hello and ask you how you are.  In other words, the most un-Israeli thing in the world.  The Seven Eleven Israel CEO, Avinoam Ben Moha wishes to instill this approach at the stores to be opened in Israel.  In the meantime, he will first focus on the first one, which will be launched next week at Dizengoff Center.

The Seven Eleven brand is perhaps not well known in Israel, but in the U.S., it is one of the most famous convenience store chains, with more than 83,000 stores worldwide, spread over 18 countries, including Japan, China and Sweden. And now Israel will be added - the first new country since the chain, which originated in America, was created.  A change in the organizational structure has led to a new division, designed to expedite the expansion in additional countries.  

The company’s model is different than that of other stores in Israel; and it is based on ‘Grab and Go’ and self-service.  The customer makes his own coffee, dispenses his own ice cream and even can pay using an App.  He scans the barcode on his cell phone at a special station located at the exit and can then go home (and at the same time, he can accumulate  points - and in Israel, he can even receive a rebate of 7% of the purchase price, to be used for the next purchase).

At the end of the day, everyone sells products, notes Ben Moha, “However, we sell an experience.  The welcome upon entering, for example, upgrades the experience to a great degree.  When we underwent training at the main branch in Dallas, I was told to stand at the store’s entrance and say ‘hello’ to everyone who entered for a few  hours.  I received great feedback - the people were happy and said hello back to me as well, and this made their day a little bit better.  I saw that the bottom of the paper cups was not branded and so I decided to brand it and write ‘have a wonderful day’ on all the bottom of the cups.  This is something found only at Seven Eleven Israel.”

If we are talking about something new, what new thing does the chain bring?

“There is nothing else like it in Israel.  It is not a convenience store, because we have fresh products that were just baked, pizza warmed in special machines and sandwiches that do not have a 2-week shelf-life.  We do not only open branches near gas stations.  The Business Registration Department didn’t know how to categorize us from a regulatory standpoint.  It was a new category for chains.  In the end, they came to the conclusion that we are more of a business that sells food and not a supermarket or minimarket.  The central new thing is the fact that the store offers a variety of products and includes needs that are found in many different formats and creates a One Stop Shop experience.  If one of my girls wants pizza and one wants ice cream and my wife wants to eat salad and I want a hot dog or sandwich, instead of going to different shops, we can find everything in one place that is convenient and accessible, at an affordable price.”

“High Quality, Low Price”

When Ben Moha talks about affordable price, he is not attempting to present the chain as the cheapest in Israel.  He does think that it is a chain that produces food with an emphasis on quality and at an affordable price.  “If we are talking about coffee, for instance,” he says, “We took all the companies that offer coffee in Israel and ranked them according to quality and price.  And our strategy is to produce quality at the highest level and the lowest price.  And that’s how we dealt with each and every product.  Our tuna salad is not made of chopped vegetables that are put into the tuna in a container, which creates a liquidy texture, rather it includes whole cherry tomatoes, and lettuce separately.  On top of this there is a tray with tuna, hard-boiled egg and condiments, with no ingredients touching each other.  In comparison to salad sold at cafés that are taken home, the price is also lower and the quality higher.”

The chain did not agree to provide us with information on the prices, except for the coffee and pizza. Its medium size coffee, produced from ground coffee beans on site, will cost NIS 9, and you can add the milk, flavors and whipped cream according to your taste, and two slices (half a medium tray) will cost you NIS 19.  If we are already talking about size, the cups found in the U.S. but will not come to Israel, will take your breath away, because the smallest cup there is the size of the largest cup in Israel.  This didn’t prevent many people at the branch we visited in Dallas to take the largest cup that contains about 700 ml., to fill it with coffee and ad milk that is half sweet cream and half regular milk and add a spicy pumpkin topping, and then to spray it all with half of a whipped cream cannister.  Perhaps this is not really coffee, rather a dessert, but it is very popular.

A Free-hand Policy

Seven Eleven is not the first chain to try its luck in Israel.  In the hope that its fate will be better than that of Starbucks and Duncan Donuts, one of the methods that will help the shops develop in Israel, according to Seven Eleven International co-CEO Ken Wakabayashi, and its Global VP Operations, Sam Pesek, is its unique concept of adapting to the consumer’s wants and needs and not following blindly after the chain’s rules in every place around the world.  “We exchange information with other countries, and if they are interested in specific products that we don’t have in the U.S., which are based on the taste of the local consumer, they can produce them for themselves.  In Japan and Scandinavia, there are more vegetables and fresh food.  We have given the company in Israel a free hand to decide what to stock the stores with and what not to.”

One of the free-hand procedures related to Israel is in contradiction to the chain’s concept, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (in contrast to the initial period in which the stores were open every day from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, thus the Company’s name was born) and relates to Sabbath observance.  This will not be the case at the Dizengoff branch, but according to Ben Moha, in a location in which the store’s operation on the Sabbath will be contrary to the values of the population living in that particular location, or where it will be against the regulation - the branch in that location will be closed on the Sabbath.

And what about Kashruth certification?

“All of the products in the chain, with not exceptions, are kosher; however, the store will not employ a Kashruth supervisor, and the schnitzels will be warmed in the same oven as the pizza.”  However, Ben Moha does not rule out that in branches operated in locations with a big religious population, there will be changes:  “It is possible that we will take out the three products made with meat from the store and it will only serve dairy products.  I also have not ruled out a Kashruth supervisor - I still have not studies this issue.”

It is understandable that there was not enough time to study the complex issue of the Kashruth, when we take into account that the Dizengoff branch will be opened only three months after its construction began, which makes it fastest built Seven Eleven International’s branch.  Many other branches are in the planning stages.  In the first two years, the focus will be on the Tel Aviv and Gush Dan region.  “With an option of spreading out,” as Moha said:  “We are currenting examining locations in Eilat as well.  If there are opportunities that cannot be missed, we will extend out of Gush Dan.  My goal is to bring Seven Eleven to every corner in Israel.”