My take: Wawa heads west


It came as no surprise when a quick piece on Wawa announcing plans to expand into Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana became our most-read post.

Readers love the company and its prowess in making decent hoagies, brewing OK coffee and, from time to time, cleaning smelly gas pumps. Wawa has now grown into one of the nation’s largest privately held companies.

That doesn’t mean rivals are standing still. Smaller Baltimore-based rival Royal Farms and its fried chicken have been going toe to toe with Wawa in vying for hot corners locations with room for gas pumps.

Royal Farms also has its followers A few weeks ago, a ho-hum post on the company expanding into North Carolina drew thousands of page views on our website.

With locations nearing the saturation point in Delaware, the Delaware Valley, and to some extent Florida, Wawa is rolling out announcements for new markets later in the decade in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and now three states to the west.

Earlier, it announced plans to move into the central Pennsylvania stronghold of Sheetz, which also puts an emphasis on food and beverages. Sheetz is also moving into the Midwest, a no-brainer, given its presence in western Pennsylvania.

The difference between the two family-controlled companies is the ability of Wawa to generate publicity for its plans. TV stations are especially quick to pick up on the news, and that draws the attention of developers willing to put together deals for new locations. It does not hurt that Wawa has  gained fans in the growing ranks of food bloggers.

With expansion comes challenges that range from fresh hoagie rolls to regional food preferences. There are also well-run regional chains that also put an emphasis on fresh food and baked goods.

One such company is Kwik Trip, which has hundreds of locations in smaller towns in the upper Midwest and offers doughnuts that put Dunkin’ to shame.

Should Wawa move further west, Wawa would need to step up its doughnut game, and Kwik Trip might need to add hoagies to the menu. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.