Two new Wawa stores opening in Pennsylvania this year could make a trip to the convenience chain just a little more convenient thanks to the company’s experimental drive-through concept, Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens said in a new interview.
Gheysens told the Philadelphia Business Journal that Wawa is expanding its standalone drive-through stores — which were first launched during the pandemic — with two locations opening in Pennsylvania, before bringing the store format to Florida next year.
Wawa’s drive-through locations have a smaller, limited menu based on the store’s most popular offerings. Prepackaged, grab-and-go snacks (such as Tastykakes) and items like gallons of milk aren’t available.
“The drive-through is primarily about convenience and speed of service, and if we made the entire offer available it would be hard to be able to meet the metrics for speed of service and convenience,” Michael Sherlock, Wawa senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told The Inquirer when it opened its first drive-through in New Jersey in 2020.
The drive-through expansion plan follows a similar trajectory to the brand’s expansion overall.
Wawa first opened its doors in Folsom, Delaware County, in 1964. From there, it moved into New Jersey and Delaware, and in just under 15 years, 200 Wawa stores were open throughout the region, later creeping into Virginia and Maryland. The company made its biggest leap in 2012 when it opened its first store in Florida. As the store continued to grow its presence in the Sunshine State, first in the Orlando area and later around Miami, locals’ reactions have ranged from excitement to indifference, with one person in 2019 calling it “just a cool gas station.”
Across the Philly region — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware — and throughout Washington, Virginia, and Florida, Wawa has 965 stores, the Journal reports.
Gheysens told the Journal that Wawa plans to open traditional stores in North Carolina next. That’s building on the brand’s success in Chesapeake, Va., which he positioned as a top performer in “adjacent markets.”
Wawa aims to open about 100 new stores every year (Gheysens said it’s currently opening about half that number annually), building up to a network of almost 2,000 stores by 2030.