Organizers of the annual 7-Eleven Experience may face a big challenge in 2018: a lot of empty seats. The convention and trade show gives the convenience-store giant an opportunity to meet with all of its franchise owners — an important part of staying in touch with the people responsible for solidifying the 7-Eleven brand across nearly 7,000 locations in the United States. However, many of those franchise owners are frustrated with what they believe is a one-sided relationship, and they recognize that the message at the face-to-face gathering won’t mean much if they aren’t there for the conversation. Last week, the presidents of the 43 7-Eleven franchise owners associations (FOAs) all voted to skip the convention, which is scheduled for Feb. 14–15 in Las Vegas.
“Our FOA representatives spoke loud and clear, and the coalition listened,” Rehan Hashmi, vice chairman of the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees (NCASEF), said in a press release. “They voted to urge members to stay away from the 7-Eleven Experience, and now the coalition wants to deliver that message to all.”
If that message makes its way to individual franchise owners, 7-Eleven runs the risk of a convention without its most important attendees and a show floor full of empty booths. That would be costly. The company’s corporate office told convenience-store trade publication CSP Daily News that it has invested approximately $4 million in the annual gathering over the past three years. “We continue to make this investment because franchisees have told us that this event helps them grow their businesses,” the company said in a statement. “We value the time that we spend with franchisees at the 7-Eleven Experience, so it is our hope that all 7-Eleven franchisees will choose to attend the 7-Eleven Experience.”
That may be wishful thinking. The company has three months to make amends with its brand stewards, but the two sides are in the middle of a lawsuit filed by franchise owners, who claim that the company is failing to fulfill its promise of treating them as independent contractors and business owners. Soon enough, 7-Eleven may not be able to treat them like attendees, either.
Something like that could create similar headaches for other event organizers. What would you do if you faced a potential boycott? How should 7-Eleven work to resolve the issue to prevent a failed face-to-face program? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on how to address a wave of frustration from prospective attendees.