Upscale junkfood 

Time for another trip into the far, far, far-out frontiers of free enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you into the near future where you can see: "7-Eleven: The Next Generation." Yes, the ubiquitous, megachain of some 20,000 7-Eleven (cq) convenience stores littering the landscape is planning for a whole new generation of stuff to sell to you. Are you ready for 7-Eleven sushi?

Believe it or not, the purveyors of Slurpees, cigarettes, acidic coffee, beef jerky, and gas ... are headed upscale. Associated Press reports that Jim Keyes, company CEO, envisions the chain becoming "the Mercedes-Benz of the convenience-store business." In addition to the burrito in a bag, the stores of the future are to have such fresh foods as sliced melon. Keyes says, "We think that the opportunity for convenience goes far beyond what it was before."

What ... paté on a stick?

Well, it's not going to be totally fancy. The company says that it will be offering a line of edibles it calls "shelf-stable microwave meals," which means they'll contain enough preservatives to remain on the shelf well into the 22nd century. The company's idea is to reach fast-food quality, only faster. "People are on the run," says a marketing manager, "this is where somebody can come in the morning and throw something in their briefcase."

Oh, yummy.

All of this futuristic foodstuff was previewed during the summer session of "The University of 7-Eleven" — a company school where hundreds of employees gather for training on how to ask innocent customers such provocative questions as "Have you tried our new Butterfinger muffin?"

And if that won't make you queasy, how about 7-Eleven's new steak-flavored hot dogs? Coming soon to a store near you.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Go boldly into the future with the upscale 7-Eleven ... but don't give up your reservation at Chez Panisse. Author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug, Jim Hightower has spent more than two decades battling Washington and Wall Street. Send comments to

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