Four Questions with Wawa’s Food Guy

Inside the mind of Michael Sherlock, VP of fresh food and beverage

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill.-- Ever wonder what your convenience-store peers are thinking about, looking forward to, irritated by? Us too. That’s why we’re excited to roll out a semiregular new feature in CSP Kitchen, in which we ask industry leaders what’s on their mind.

Wawa Foodservice

This month, we chatted with Wawa’s vice president of fresh food and beverage Michael Sherlock about happy accidents, tired trends and his desert-island Wawa meal.

Q: What are you most excited about for 2016?

A: The evolution that our industry has made toward fresh ingredients and bolder, on-trend flavors, and that we will continue to make in the year ahead. Offering a kale and quinoa salad, flavorful sandwich spreads and a Cuban roast coffee were unheard of in the c-store industry years ago. (Editor’s note: Wawa recently added all three of those items to its menu.) Our segment is now becoming a destination for fresh food and beverages on the go.

Q: What food trends are you tired of hearing about?

A: Ancient grains. They have their place, like in a kale and quinoa salad. However, like most new trends, the need to include them in each menu occasion—all food courses and beverages—diminishes their effectiveness.

Q: What’s been your biggest foodservice fail, or your most memorable happy accident?

A: In the late 1990s we introduced the Wawa Boli, a hand-held stromboli offer. It was our greatest “successful failure.” We had a good recipe that we were unable to commercialize with consistency for consumer acceptance. But as a result, we developed an extensive product-development process and have grown our product-development team to be an essential part of our innovation strategy. (More from the editor: Check out this 15-year-old story from The Daily Princetonian Princeton University’s paper of record, eulogizing the Boli.)

Q: If you could eat only one item from the Wawa menu for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Fortunately our team is always innovating. If you asked me in the fall it would have been The Gobbler (a hot turkey hoagie topped with gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce). The Turkey Veggie Ranch Hoagie on a fresh-baked wheat roll is a year-round favorite. If you asked my team, they would tell you I’d say any of our smoothie varieties. When conducting tastings, our product-development team will serve new flavors in sample cups to all team members. Except for me—I get a full serving.

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