Wawa CEO Ushers in New Era of Coffee


VINELAND, N.J. -- Wawa President and CEO Howard Stoeckel yesterday kicked off the convenience store chain's third stop on its Brew Tour here. Calling it an "ambitious change," he ceremoniously retired Wawa's glass coffee pot and unveiled the retailer's newly redesigned coffee station area featuring thermal coffee containers.

The coffee station makeover dubbed "Coffee Unplugged" has been completed in 380 Wawa stores to date, and in just a few more months, all 572 of the company's c-stores will be transformed. The goal is to have the entire five-state chain completed by Dec. 10.

"You constantly have to reinvent yourself. One of the things we love to talk about is that we've been in business for more than 200 years. And [during that time], the company has gone through constant renewal and reinvention. If you don't reinvent, if you don't renew and refresh yourself, you simply don't move forward," Stoeckel said during an interview with CSNews Online during yesterday's Brew Tour event.

Companies such as Wawa that constantly take risks, that change with the times and most importantly, change with their consumers, are the ones that succeed, he noted.

"We've made some bold changes in terms of the production platform, the holding of the coffee, but what hasn't changed is the experience. If anything, we're enhancing the experience with a new layout, a better image and by our recommitment to our customers and the people [in our stores] who deliver that experience," Stoeckel explained.

The move is intended to reduce waste, conserve energy and provide the ultimate level of coffee freshness to customers around the clock, according to Wawa executives.

To usher in the new era of coffee, Wawa has embarked on a Brew Tour, holding specialized events in select stores throughout its five-state operating area.

During yesterday's stop in Vineland, Wawa managers, associates and customers celebrated with mascot Wally the Goose by dancing and singing, including a YMCA rendition that replaced the chorus with W-A-W-A. Associates also paraded coffee cups from Wawa's history, and area coffee hosts and hostesses were recognized for their years of customer service.

"What's as important as the coffee is the connection, seeing that familiar face every day," Stoeckel said, as the hosts and hostesses were presented with special jackets.

Wawa's Brew Tour events are being held at the first store to be converted in each market. Immediately following each event, the entire market area is transformed within 30 days to include the redesigned coffee area and thermals. Each store conversion takes about 12 hours.

As each store is converted, Wawa is launching an in-store sweepstakes that goes on for four weeks in each store, giving customers a chance to win one week's worth of free coffee, as well as one of 75 limited-edition design, stainless-steel coffee mugs. Additionally, free coffee of any size is provided all day long on the day each store converts. Over the course of the Brew Tour, the retailer expects to give away more than a quarter-million cups of free coffee.

Wawa has served more than 1 billion cups of coffee in the last decade.

For much more on Wawa's rich coffee history and its new "Coffee Unplugged" initiative, check out the November issue of Convenience Store News.

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