Company News

Wawa Drive-Thru Strategy Results in Positive Growth

Chain benefitting from standalone food location
 Wawa
Photograph courtesy of Wawa

Wawa’s weekly visits have grown in the past year, due to expansion and its new drive-thru and quick-service restaurant (QSR) endeavor, according to a report from Placer.ai.

Visits to Wawa convenience stores exploded during fourth-quarter 2022, a trend that has continued into the new year, the report said. Even with Wawa’s strong 2021 performance, visits to the chain were up year over year (2022 vs 2021) almost every week of the quarter. And year-over-three-year (2022 vs 2019) foot traffic increased even more, reaching 81.3% in December 2022.

While some of the increase was fueled by the chain’s continued expansion over the past few years, the average number of visits per venue also increased by 41.4% between fourth-quarter 2019 and fourth-quarter 2022.

Wawa is exploring opening more locations with a new take on food offerings. Many of the company’s new locations will include a drive-thru channel that will focus exclusively on fresh food sales, with some of the stores operating as a standalone drive-thru format, according to Chris Gheysens, CEO of Wawa.

To date, Wawa has opened two drive-thru locations, each with a slightly different operating model, to serve as a test for the chain’s continued drive-thru expansion. A traditional Wawa store with a drive thru for food orders opened in Mount Holly, New Jersey, in late 2020. The Morrisville, Pennsylvania, store, which opened in early 2021, is a standalone, drive-thru-only location that operates near a traditional Wawa convenience store and gas station and serves only Wawa’s fresh food menu.

Between August 2021 and September 2022, the New Jersey location maintained positive or neutral baseline visit growth for most of the period, while the wider QSR space saw visits decline or stay relatively on par with August 2021 numbers, according to data from Placer.ai. Wawa’s visit growth at the stand-alone drive-thru has been positive since April, when inflation began dominating the headlines.

Customers are also making frequent visits, according to data from the report, and the stand-alone drive-thru is leading the way.

On average, drive-thru customers visited more frequently than customers to the Pennsylvania store with an attached drive thru. Since second-quarter 2021, the New Jersey drive-thru had higher average visits per customer than the Pennsylvania store and drive-thru in nearly every quarter.

Wawa, Pennsylvania-based Wawa has more than 950 c-stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C.

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