I’m from Southern New Jersey, and that means that I’m very well-acquainted with a little store called Wawa. If you’re not familiar, Wawa is a magical convenience store that’s located pretty much everywhere down here. They have everything from candy bars to gasoline, and they just keep getting bigger and better. That is, of course, except when it comes to their defining products: sandwiches.
Way back when I was a young lad, Wawa was a much smaller operation. Physically, I mean. Their stores were these delightfully brown buildings with a very distinct stone design on the outside. You could always tell when you were looking at a Wawa, even without the sign. But back in the day, they weren’t just a convenience store, they were also a deli. You could walk into your local Wawa and get a quarter pound of salami if you wanted to, and it was delightful. They had the deli case and everything. It was full of delicious meats and cheeses, and you would talk directly to the person behind the counter and order what you wanted. This also meant that the delicious meats and cheeses used in your sandwich were sliced up right then and there. Because of this, Wawa sandwiches (or hoagies as we call them around these parts) weren’t just convenient, they were genuinely delicious. It was this deliciousness that helped put them on the map, and brought their success.
Success brought big changes to the Wawa brand, and almost every one of them were great. In an effort to speed things up and cut down on employee errors, Wawa started installing these magical touch screens where you would place your sandwich/deli orders. Sure, it cut out some of the nice personal contact, but you could always still talk to the folks behind the deli counter if you wanted to, and now they had these nice little printouts to refer to so the chances of getting a sandwich slathered with mayo instead of mustard dropped considerably. Many Wawa locations started expanding to include gas stations as well, which made Wawa an even more convenient place to go for feeding both yourself and your vehicle. Most recently, Wawa even started baking fresh sandwich rolls on the premises, and fresh bread is always a good thing.
However, somewhere along the way they lost the deli. The meat slicers were removed, and the ability to buy cold cuts went along with them. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily a tragedy, because we can always just get our cold cuts from the local grocery store. But the unfortunate side effect was that the sandwiches no longer had freshly cut meats on them. The sandwich contents now came in pre-sliced packaging to be doled out as the day went on. Sure, it upped the overall efficiency and speediness behind the counter, but it came at a serious cost. The flavor and overall quality of Wawa’s sandwiches dropped considerably, and at least the sandwiches that involve cold cuts simply weren’t very tasty anymore. But perhaps an even bigger and more detrimental unforeseen consequence of the lack of meat slicing is that Wawa employees seem to have lost their “pride in the sandwich.” The people behind the deli counter used to be freaking artists. They made sandwiches carefully and with pride. Now, it’s extremely uncommon to get a sandwich made with care at a Wawa. Uneven distribution, sloppy sauce application, and just an overall sense of “fast food” is what we see today, and it’s beyond sad, it’s unacceptable.
This seems very counter-intuitive to Wawa’s brand, especially with all the other great advances they’ve made in bringing a sense of freshness to their stores. With Wawa being bigger now than it’s ever been, and expanding to new locations all over, it’s time to take a step back and remember what made Wawa great in the first place. Bring back the meat slicers, and train the staff to have pride in the sandwich once again. No more simply slapping the prefabricated ingredients together willy nilly. Wawa, you’re putting sub-par ingredients on fresh baked bread, and it’s time to put a stop to it! Every time I get Classic Italian from a Wawa and open it up to find a handful of lettuce only on half the sub, with 3 sad looking slices of tomato on top of some bland-tasting meats, I remember the old days and miss being genuinely excited to eat there. Wawa subs were THE place to get subs. Now they’re the place to get subs if you don’t feel like going somewhere else for better ones. I don’t mean to disparaige the great food they do have. They still have my favorite hot dogs, their iced beverages are top notch, and their hot sandwiches are as good as they’ve ever been. And that’s to say nothing of the buttered rolls and dollar hash browns. But it’s time for a change, guys. Take pride in your sandwiches once again. Your customers will thank you for it.