Why Wawa is Adding Coffee Baristas … Again

Tactic is part of larger strategy toward "fast casual to go"

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

WAWA, Pa. -- With Wawa's recent move into the Florida market, the convenience store chain is taking another step toward developing a new restaurant channel, one that outgoing CEO Howard Stoeckel has dubbed "fast casual to go."

One of its greatest leaps in in that direction is adding baristas to all of its sites. "Getting into those espresso-based specialty beverages is a big opportunity for us. It'll add credibility and, frankly, we're just scratching the surface," Chris Gheysens, the president and incoming CEO.

If this sounds a little familiar, it's because about 20 years ago, Wawa had introduced full-service baristas at a dozen sites, and even had a freestanding coffee kiosk. It pulled them out after only a short time.

"At that point, we were ahead of our time, and we had not reached the level of consumer perception in foodservice and beverages we needed to have to aggressively compete in that business," Stoeckel told CSP Daily News. "Now that we've repositioned coffee with the new offer and branding, we've come to a new level in foodservice. Now we're ready to enter that business."

Encouraging Wawa that its timing is finally right is the success of its smoothie program. Introduced three years ago and today encompassing 24 varieties, smoothies have signaled to Wawa that customers accept the retailer as a source for quality food.

Read more about Wawa's new strategies and incoming CEO in the September issue of CSP magazine.