'CSNews' Looks Inside New 7-Eleven Commissary & CDC

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'CSNews' Looks Inside New 7-Eleven Commissary & CDC

BOHEMIA, N.Y. -- 7-Eleven Inc. gave CSNews Online and other media and local officials an inside look yesterday into the company’s new environmentally in-tune Commissary and Combined Distribution Center (CDC), located on Long Island.

The 130,000-square-foot facility, operated by Norris Food Services in compliance with Department of Homeland Security and Department of Agriculture food standards, prepares and delivers fresh foods daily to 674 7-Eleven stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- all while conserving energy, water usage and utility costs.

"This is a green-letter day for 7-Eleven," Darren Rebelez, chief operating officer for the Dallas-based convenience chain, said during yesterday’s launch celebration, noting fresh foods are viewed as one of its biggest growth areas and a point of differentiation within the marketplace. "Local commissaries, like this one, make it possible for us to create the highest-quality, freshest and safest foods for our customers," he added.

While 7-Eleven’s other commissaries do incorporate some "green" features, the new Long Island commissary and CDC is the first ground-up facility where the chain has been able to bring all the different eco-friendly components together, according to Rebelez.

Food-processing areas are constructed with thick polymer concrete containing anti-microbial agents that won't crack or shear off on the floor. Light fixtures can be changed from outside a room to reduce breakage and eliminate potential contamination. 7-Eleven also invested in a gas-energy mixing system to treat grey water before it’s discharged.

Other green highlights of the mixed-use facility include:

-- A state-of-the-art tray washer that reduces water use by an estimated 40,000-plus gallons per day compared to pressure washing;

-- A high-tech central refrigeration system that lowers energy use by 30 percent compared to a conventional DX (split) system, resulting in annual savings of around $300,000;

-- An integrated Rinse, Foam and Sanitize (RFS) solution, with boosted pressure, that uses eight gallons per minute versus 30 gallons per minute with a conventional system;

-- Intuitive lighting systems that can reduce energy expenditure up to 25 percent, or completely turn off when no activity is sensed; and,

-- AirOcare units, which feature a patented technology that cleans and sanitizes air and surfaces without the use of chemicals, significantly reducing contamination.

7-Eleven intends to develop other green commissaries going forward, Rebelez noted.

The state-of-the-art Bohemia, N.Y., facility is among 15 local, third-party commissaries that fulfill the daily orders placed by 7-Eleven stores for fresh-prepared foods. About 5,600 of 7-Eleven’s 6,100 total stores across the United States and Canada -- roughly 90 percent -- now receive daily deliveries of fresh foods, bakery items and other perishables.

7-Eleven first started daily deliveries throughout its nationwide network in 1994.

Through sophisticated inventory and computerized ordering systems, 7-Eleven store operators place their orders by 10 a.m. each day for deliveries that begin the very same day. The computer system quickly consolidates these orders and transmits them to the CDCs, commissaries and bakeries that support these stores across North America.

Upon receipt of the stores' orders, sandwiches, salads and baked goods are prepared fresh that same day, adhering to the company’s proprietary recipes and strict specifications. Fresh-food products are immediately stamped with the time and date once they are made. Other perishable and time-sensitive products are delivered throughout the day, to be sorted for that night's delivery. Trucks are then dispatched to deliver each store's merchandise between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next day, the chain stated.

To ensure quality, the CDC facility follows strict product-handling and temperature standards. Products brought to the CDC are continually maintained at prescribed temperatures throughout food preparation, sorting and transportation cycles. The CDC also ensures the highest food quality by shipping from temperature-controlled docks. Delivery vehicles are equipped to control two temperature zones -- a refrigerated compartment maintained at 38 degrees and a dry compartment held at 70 degrees.

William J. Norris, owner of the new CDC and commissary and a veteran convenience food professional, said he could not ask for "a better partner than 7-Eleven" given the retailer’s continued dedication and investment into ensuring the highest level of safety. "We’ve been a partner with 7-Eleven for more than 16 years. It’s a great relationship," he added.

Sandwiches, salads, entrees and all other fresh foods prepared in the commissary's 72,000-square-foot kitchen adhere to quality standards that meet or surpass USDA regulations, according to 7-Eleven. An on-site USDA office and visiting inspector ensure safe food-handling practices, and all must follow Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point procedures established collaboratively by the quality assurance departments of 7-Eleven, the commissary kitchen, bakery and any other third-party suppliers to the operation.

As Rebelez told CSNews Online, 7-Eleven anticipates continued growth in terms of both store count and sales for its fresh foods program, which is marketed under the Fresh-to-Go brand. In fact, the Bohemia facility, which went completely live Oct. 1, was built with expansion in mind and can accommodate up to 1,200 stores.

The vision for the future, the COO said, is to build up store concentrations in the remaining outlying areas and then get the facilities in place, so ultimately 100 percent of 7-Eleven stores will be offering fresh foods to their customers.

In addition to the refrigerated products and bakery items, the chain also has big plans for its hot foods merchandising program, which launched in Virginia stores as a pilot in March 2008 and is now being rolled out to additional locations. Be sure to visit www.csnews.com on Friday, Jan. 30, for more on 7-Eleven’s hot foods strategy. s