Wawa, a popular chain of convenience stores in the eastern US, announced in early May that they will be offering catering options at all locations. The offerings will include a variety of made-to-order menu items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at family and social events, corporate meetings, and more according to Encore Catering.
The new program, which is pick-up only, allows customers to place catering orders at any store with a 24-48 hour advanced notice and a specified pick-up time. Breakfast items will include donuts, bagels and coffee, while lunch and dinner options vary from sandwiches and soups to sides such as mac and cheese, pretzels, and cookies.
The expansion of Wawa into the catering market signifies the potential for a new kind of catering experience: cheap and accessible pick-up catering. By offering consumers special deals, such as a hoagie-and-side “box” meal that feeds 10 for $64.99 ($6.49 per person), Wawa seems to be pioneering a new era of “convenience catering” whereby chain establishments not known for providing large, fancy meals still offer catering services for the less discerning customer.
Wawa began in New Jersey in 1803 as an iron foundry. In 1902, the owner became interested in dairy farming and started a dairy processing plant in Pennsylvania. By 1964, the first Wawa market was up and running, expanding over the next several decades into over 800 retail locations throughout Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, New Jersey and Florida.
By utilizing their own brand and products in their catering options and new catering packaging, Wawa appears to be setting a new standard for convenience stores to offer customized large-scale orders for their customers.
Although Wawa’s new catering program may prove to be a hit amongst the company’s more loyal patrons, they’ll still need to incorporate online ordering and delivery options to compete with the broader catering market. They’ll also want to consider offering more upscale fare, as fancier options remain popular in an industry often viewed as a luxury service.
If there’s anything to take away from Wawa’s spearheading of convenience store catering, it’s that convenience itself remains an increasingly important factor in consumers’ lives, especially when it comes to providing refreshment for large groups. However, they have a long road ahead if they wish to be seen as an equivalent to competing industry leaders.