Wawa's new boss pledges a bread oven in every store
POSTED: Thursday, January 17, 2013, 10:43 AM Joseph N. DiStefano
Chris Gheysens, whos been Wawas CEO since New Years Day, lives in South Jersey and works at company HQ in Delaware County when hes not running around 600 -plus Wawa stores from North Jersey to Orlando.
So he doesnt get downtown much, Gheysens admitted to the Irish American Chamber of Commerce at its Pyramid Club luncheon today. You know how it is. Ive got four kids. So not a dollar on me when he had to feed a meter this morning, he said.
So I stopped at the ATM. There was a three-dollar surcharge. Whats Wawas surcharge? Wawa friends in the crowd yelled back, Zero! and applauded.
Right. So I went in Starbucks. They charged me $2.25 for a cup of coffee. Whats Wawas coffee price? The shout came back: A dollar. And Wawas coffee is better. Pause. This is not an advertisement by any sense. That got the laugh line too.He was story-telling: Center City has converted to card-operated parking meters. No matter; the crowd went right along as he sketched a Blue Ocean business strategy -- Couple gas, with food service, in good locations, with great customer service... No one else is doing that in Wawas markets.
Wawa, Gheysens says, now wants to be seen, not as fast food, but as Fast Casual, in a league with fresh-food but no-waitress-to-tip Five Guys, Chipotle, or Panera, only without all the seating. Except in Florida, and at some new stores, which are adding chairs outside, and seem more like the Scheetz I visited in Carlisle the other day, than the classic move-you-along Wawa way.
In Florida, were using the same feel, but a different store model, with glass walls, and seating outside, Gheysens affirmed. Go around Philadelphia, you dont see those stores. A majority of Wawas now sell gas, but hes still planning to upgrade smaller no-gas outlets, especially in Center City, and the popular but worn outpost at Penn: That needs to be a landmark.
Gheysens also said Wawa has made a decision on its store-baked bread experiment in partnership with Amorosos, Wawas bread supplier: Fresh baked rolls. By the end of the year you will have an oven in every Wawa. Which means more bread baked on site (and maybe less from Amorosos South Jersey industrial bakery).
Therell also be employees in mock chef coats. Less clutter. Brighter colors. More consistent, Gheysens says, with what you find in a Panera or a Starbucks.