- Wawa is testing new dinner options that guests can customize via its touchscreen ordering system. The items, which are available after 4 p.m., are in test across hundreds of stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C., and will be accessible via delivery and curbside service in the next few months, according to a press release.
- The menu includes a new burger with all-natural Angus beef in a lighter bun with cheese and fries, penne or Fettuccine pasta with various sauces and meat and veggie options, entrée platters like braised chicken, rotisserie-style chicken, heat-and-eat meals and kids' meals. The dinner menu will be test over the upcoming months, and the company plans further expansion before the end of the year.
- "We always strive to listen to our customers, so we've spent time testing menu items in select stores, gathering feedback and perfecting our recipes with the goal of providing a family, group of friends, etc. the ability to select their preferred dinner while still enjoying a meal together," Mike Sherlock, chief product marketing officer, said in the release.
Wawa has been focused on elevating its menu and improving its food quality since 2017, no doubt targeting the lucrative fast food segment. The chain, now considered a "food-forward" convenience store, has introduced plant-based meats, new beers, and reserve coffee over the last 18 months.
It makes sense for the chain to expand into dinner in tandem with these efforts — the daypart has been largely insulated from disruption amid the COVID-19 crisis as more people look for a break from cooking family dinners.
This isn’t the first time Wawa has made changes in light of the pandemic. The company said in May it plans to open its first drive-thru-only location by the end of the year. With that news, Wawa Director of Construction Terri Micklin said, "it is critical to provide new ways to access Wawa, increase convenience and provide new options for service."
The company is focused on delivery and curbside for its dinner test as well. Wawa delivery is now ordered every four seconds via its mobile app or a third-party delivery provider, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The c-store is also investing in new equipment, perhaps indicating it is confident that the daypart could become a permanent option at the chain.
C-stores were already making some share-of-stomach gains prior to the pandemic. Foodservice sales accounted for almost 23% of sales at convenience stores in the U.S. in 2018, according to a National Association of Convenience Stores State of the Industry report.
Wawa's focus on dinner, its experiment with a drive-thru model and its off-premise success could make the c-store chain as an even bigger threat to quick-service chains in its market, especially with its sizable, 900-unit footprint.