C-Store Foodservice Survey

Published in CSP Daily News

How Wawa stays ahead of the pack

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

WAWA, Pa. -- How did Wawa get to where it is today with foodservice? A new study shows consistency in the offer has gone a long way to getting the convenience-store chain up to snuff.

"Had you done this study five, 10 years ago, you probably would have seen very different scores," said Mike Sherlock, director of foodservice for Wawa Inc., Wawa, Pa. "The industry as a whole is going in the right direction, and Wawa as well."

Among the 20 chains rated in Chicago-based Technomic's 2012 Consumer C-Store Brand Metrics Study—the results of which were shared exclusively with CSP—Wawa scored highest among consumers for seven of the 10 food-specific attributes measured.

Wawa's foodservice legacy goes back to when the chain began offering deli meats and cheeses in the 1960s. Along with the iconic hoagie, Wawa has since pioneered programs such as smoothies (launched at the same time as McDonald's own platform); coffee from airpots instead of glass carafes; and breakfast items such as the Sizzli breakfast sandwich. In April, CEO Howard Stoeckel announced stores will begin offering full-service, barista-style coffee and more items that embrace consumers' desire for "freshness," such as a new California Classic Hoagie, with bacon, avocado and cucumber.

Wawa has now turned its focus on the store experience, redesigning its prototype to fit Stoeckel's vision for his chain: fast casual to go.

With nearly 600 stores in the fold and a new café-style store being unveiled in Florida, Wawa ranked toward the top of the study in both theater and fundamentals, scoring high on customer services and cleanliness. And the company taps its store associates to elevate the food experience.

"They are the greatest brand ambassadors," Sherlock told CSP Daily News.

That is manifest not only in granular tools such as employee taste testing and feedback, but also giving them what they need to execute consistently. For Wawa, that has meant investing in new technology, such as touch-screen ordering. It is a service to customers, and it streamlines production as orders appear on the screen in an intuitive way for employees to execute.

The same thought is given to new menu platforms, whether it's a smoothie program or transitioning from glass coffee pots to thermals. "How do we make it as easy as possible for the associates to deliver a high-quality experience on a consistent basis?" Sherlock says.

Other chains in the study include QuikTrip, Kum & Go, Pilot Flying J, Stripes, Speedway, BP ampm, RaceTrac, Casey's General Stores, Kangaroo Express, Kwik Trip, Holiday StationStores, Valero Corner Stores, Sunoco Aplus and Cumberland Farms, among others.

See Related Content below to read the complete report.

By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
View More Articles By Abbie Westra