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WaWa Shares its Brand Building Tips at The NATSO Show

Posted in: Great Ideas, Truckstop Business, The NATSO Show, Marketing & Retail


For two and a half days, the industry gathers to find knowledge, solutions and connections at The NATSO Show. Just like The NATSO Show, The NATSO Show Magazine is your source for improving your travel plaza business operations. Unlike The NATSO Show it is year-round. 

WaWa Shares its Brand Building Tips at The NATSO Show


The convenience store chain WaWa is a leader in customer loyalty and food service, and during The NATSO Show 2014, WaWa executives shared their knowledge with truckstop and travel plaza operators. 

During the session, Michael Sherlock, WaWa’s vice president of fresh food & beverages, and Lynn Hochberg, WaWa’s director of product development, said that WaWa caters to a fast-casual, to-go market, taking up a space between c-stores and fast casual. 

“The bar is raising for freshness, quality and appetite appeal,” Hochberg said. “Customers have upgraded their expectations.” 

WaWa has improved its food area, changing the menu and ordering boards and updating the coffee offerings. “It meant removing the glass pot and going with thermals and updating the wall,” Hochberg said. “We upgraded food photography and the color pallets of our signage with the goal of communicating fresh.”

WaWa also continues to improve its food and beverage offerings. “We’ve added smoothies and espresso drinks. We’d been working on baking our hoagie rolls in store to deliver a better experience in a key brand,” Hochberg said.

WaWa also used soft, muted pallet that was inviting and added outdoor seating to tell customers they are more than a gas station.

For WaWa, the goal is to get customers in the door and move them through its locations quickly. WaWa views a parking spot like a restaurant would view a table. Hochberg said, “We ask, ‘How quickly can we turn a table?’ We have a team of operations engineers that study every process at store level. They’ve done time studies on customers and turnover of our parking lot.”

WaWa introduced touch-screen ordering in 2000 and uses chute checkouts instead of an island to speed movement. “We love our customers, but we love them three to four minutes at a time,” Hochberg said.

Sherlock said the largest part of WaWa’s cost is labor—the company employs 19,000 people in 629 stores. “We view it as an investment in people, not a line we try to control,” he said, adding that WaWa offers an employee stock-operating program. 

In order to ensure everything is working as planned, executives at WaWa always refer to the numbers. “The one metric we always look at is customer count and if we’re growing it year over year. We also look at everything on a store week basis. Then we look at gross profit and sales,” Sherlock said.

To read about the ahead-of-the-curve experts planned for The NATSO Show 2016, visit The NATSO Show website here.

Photo Credit: Tommy Lawson/NATSO

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About the Author

Amy Toner

Amy Toner

Toner markets NATSO products, services and meetings. She is the content editor of NATSO's core websites, Stop Watch magazine and Highway Business Matters biweekly articles. In addition, she provides creative services across all departments. Toner joined NATSO in 2006. Prior to joining the association, she served as director of membership services at an association for ambulatory surgery centers. Toner lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son.

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