Wawa is one of the only convenience stores on the planet with a cult following.
The Philadelphia-based gas station chain has 1.2 million fans on Facebook and more than 30,000 followers on Twitter. It’s ranked as the 40th largest private company by Forbes with an estimated $US9.02 billion in revenue from just 625 stores in six states.
We asked people from Wawa-inhabited towns about why the chain is so popular. Here are the top reasons:
1. The hoagies
The hoagie sandwiches, which cost just $US4.79, are Wawa’s most popular menu item. The dough is from Philadelphia bakery Amaroso and it’s baked fresh in the store. You can get a 4-inch Junior, a 6-inch Shorti, or a 10-inch Classic and choose from one of 32 original combinations including the Buffalo Breaded Chicken, the Pepperoni Pizza, and the Oven Roasted Turkey. You can also build your own hoagie.
2. All the other hot and freshly prepared food
Most people don’t associate convenience stores with fresh, good food. Wawa has managed to become an anomaly in that respect. In addition to the famous hoagies, Wawa offers dozens of other freshly prepared menu items, including quesadillas, soups, salads, wraps, and snacks like hot stuffed pretzels and buffalo chicken bites. Wawa also sells a range of desserts, including the oven-baked S’More Pie.
Some of its menu items are also surprisingly sophisticated. “Lobster bisque and prime rib are two surprises on the Wawa menu; Neither is quite expected when one thinks of convenience store food, but there they are,” Tessa Kettelberger wrote on the blog PhillyBurbs.com. “Sure, they may not be the same at Wawa as they are at a nice restaurant, but still, I love being able to order more ‘sophisticated’ foods at Wawa.”
3. The free ATMS
Wawa doesn’t charge for cash withdrawals.
4. The touch-screen menus at the deli counters for customising food orders
This makes ordering fast and easy, with very little room for error. Wawa was one of the first convenience stores to implement touch-screen menus.
5. The service
In a 2005 study on the loyalty of Wawa’s fans, Ohio State University professor Neeli Bendapudi found that customers repeatedly cited employee friendliness as a top draw to the convenience store.
“While many convenience store chains have focused on speed of transactions and volume of sales per store, Wawa… [has] made a concerted effort to build customer loyalty through a sense of community,” Bendapudi wrote in an article in the Harvard Business Review.
6. The convenience factor
Every square inch of space in Wawa is specifically engineered get you in and out as quickly as possible. “Starbucks built its cult following by making its stores inviting places to linger for an hour; Wawa stays popular by getting everyone the hell out,” Don Steinberg wrote in Philadelphia magazine. “Everything is designed for speed, which translates to turnover, customer contentment and, essentially, profit.”
7. The house-brand foods and drinks
You can get stuff at Wawa that you can’t get anywhere else. Wawa has its own dairy farm, which opened in 1903, where it produces its own ice cream and milk. Wawa also has its own branded coffee, iced tea, soda, orange juice and more.
8. The breakfast
Wawa’s “Sizzli” is its branded breakfast sandwich, which you can order a dozen different ways on a bagel, croissant, biscuit, or french toast.
9. The hours
Most stores stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
10. It’s the place to be
“I love the fact that almost every time I’m at Wawa, I see someone there I know,” writes Kettelberger.
11. Not everyone has a Wawa
Not everyone gets to enjoy Wawa. Wawa has roughly 625 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and central Florida. People who grow up around Wawa are proud to call it their hometown convenience store and they yearn for it when they are away.
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