Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wawa: Coffeetopia? Not Bloody Likely

I like Wawa stores, for convenience stores. They make their hoagies fresh if you want them (or you can grab a pre-made and go), they have my bank as their ATM provider (so no $2 service fees), they have a wide selection of stuff.

But as my man David Lo Pan sez, "Now, this really pisses me off to no end!" Wawa is running a promotion on their coffee right now (they promote their coffee a lot), calling themselves Coffeetopia (you can see it in the picture if you click on it to blow it up). And I'd like to know just how a freakin' place can call themselves Coffee-effin-topia when they're busily burning the shit out of their coffee, 24/7!

Coffee abuse pisses me off (to no end, as I mentioned). And this, well, I've seen Wawa employees combining pots of steaming black tar, making sure not a drop of nasty, black-burnt, acidic gleet gets wasted. The smell is an irritant, the taste is hideous. Though, of course, in this light-beer-drinking nation, we continue to buy it, because it does get you buzzed. Yeesh.

So my challenge to Wawa: would it kill you to dump the Bunn warmers and get some thermal carafes? For shit's sake, Sunoco gas stations have thermal carafes, and you're so much better than that. I've had an occasional fresh pot, right off the maker, at Wawa, and the coffee's fine, but once it's had The Treatment, I wouldn't kill slugs with it (because it would be cruel to the slugs, not because it wouldn't do an excellent job).

I know what you're thinking. Wawa probably sells a ton of coffee, and to tell the truth, it's because they get almost everything else right: size of cup, price, ease of self-service and plenty of real dairy options for white stuff, even more than one kind of coffee on at a time (though you can't really tell because it's burnt to hell). It's not La Colombe, but hell, Memphis Taproom ain't La Bec Fin either, and it's still damned good, it's perfect for what it is. So you're thinking, why on earth should we fix something that sure-hell don't seem to be broke?

Well, buhbie, it's because you tagged it as Coffeetopia, and you should have the decency to make it so. Thermal carafes are the way to go, and your sales will reflect it. Find a carafe that dispenses coffee fast (because that's the one thing the Bunn system has going for it; fast pours), buy a bunch of them, and put them in one store to see how it goes (I would humbly submit the 2250 Lincoln Highway location in Trevose...). Bet you get better sales, and a lot of compliments. Because that, Wawa-volk, would be Coffeetopia.

Oh, yeah. One more thing. Would it be too much to ask you to start selling diesel?

34 comments:

brooke said...

As a HUGE Wawa fan, it disappoints me to hear that their coffee blows. I don't do coffee anymore, so I can't give my opinion on taste. I do however, love the connection you make to bad beer consumption...and with this connection I think you're right- if it ain't broke (according to that masses that guzzle it all down) why would Wawa fix it?

John said...

Yes, the combine pots, and it's a real bummer. But when they do, it leaves a spot for a fresh pot to be put down. They have so many pots out on display, I can't always tell which one is the fresh one unless I actually see them do it. So. I just ask the lady running the coffees if she just pot a fresh pot down, and they'll tell you if you ask.
Not a perfect scenario, but...

Lew Bryson said...

I don't want to have to ask, or wait around to ask! Besides, "fresh" is relative. If she just put it down, and you see it, okay. But I've seen the kid at the Wawa I mentioned above bring a fresh pot over and use it to fill an old pot. That's when I grab a Diet Pepsi.

Anonymous said...

I actually find Wawa coffee pretty good.
Tell us Lew, where should we be looking for something better?
And dont say Starbucks, Im not paying $3.50 a cup, and thats for regular!

Steve Logan said...

I'm so glad to read this. I've felt for a long time Wawa coffee has gone downhill. As soon as they added umpteen burners the coffee went to crap - burnt, stale, tasting like cardboard and strangely, cigarette ashes.

Lew Bryson said...

Anony,
I used to myself, but...the past two years or so, I just can't stomach it unless I'm desperately in need of keeping my eyes open.
Where else? Starbucks is way down my list, but it's not THAT much (and if you stick around at the 'bucks, they'll re-fill your big cup for about 60 cents, which is a steal). I do Dunkin, and get a good cup about 70% of the time: sometimes it's awfully watery. Yum-Yum Bake Shops, if you have one nearby, are real good. Sunoco may have carafes, but their coffee sucks to begin with. Lukoil stores usually have good coffee: they used to carry the hyper-caffeinated Shock Coffee, which was surprisingly good.
But for a "nice" cup? Now that Bucks County got bought and shut down their kiosks, I dunno. I'm working on it. Where's there a damned website for that?!

David said...

I do lunch at Wawa regularly, never do their coffee though. At least since the first time.

As an aside, Wawa is the first local retailer where I've noticed Bud Ale. Is that a plus or not? :-)

bill mc said...

I dunno bout the hoagies there but I like Lee's Hoagie House Hoagies.

You oughta do a Philly food thread and see how it goes.

Steve Logan said...

I do Dunkin' Donuts now since it's between the train station and the office. At rush hour in the morning they're pouring so fast it doesn't have a chance to sit around. I agree with Anon though on Starbucks - mostly for the price. I also think Starbucks' coffee is highly acidic - and if you drink it black like I do I don't like it as much as other brands.

Adam said...

If Wawa were to stick to just a few types of coffee, but, work at keeping them fresh instead of having a stable of burned specialties because they don't turn over, then I would be happy.

And yes they could do this with thermal carafes.

Anonymous said...

Qu'est-ce?! Il est fou! Mauvais café? À Le Wawa? Mais j'aime leur café beaucoup! C'est vrai! Tant pis pour toi!
(L@MT)

Mr. Thursday said...

Worked at a Wawa the summer after freshman year of college. At the time, I believe a pot of coffee yielded Wawa 8 12oz cups, which sold for something like 99 cents. That's $7.92 cents for you kids counting at home. The individual pot of coffee costs less than 50 cents to make. Which means that every drop of nasty, black-burnt acidic gleet is, more or less, straight profit.

Wawa sells a shit-ton of coffee. Till their consumer base gets some sense, they have no reason, whatsoever, to buy expensive carafes to drive down their profit margins.

The only thing you can do, I suspect, is what I do: hope there are a couple of good local coffee shops in your area, and make sure you've always got some good beans on the shelf.

Lew Bryson said...

Really, L@MT, I've had plenty of bad Wawa coffee. If you like, well, more power to ya.

Lew Bryson said...

David, you're just taunting us that you can get ANY beer at your Wawa, you lucky booger!

Lew Bryson said...

That IS what I do, Herr Donnerstag, better believe it. Life's good since we got our Cuisinart burr mill and thermal carafe drip maker.

bill mc said...

OMG, Yum-Yum has the best frickin' donuts!!!

Crap, I forgot about them...

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

But..... but..... what about the latte/frappuchino dispensers? <:-D

Seriously, my wife and I were fueled throughout our latest jaunt through South Joisey by large lattes and mochas, at a much nicer price than a comparable product from Starbucks or Caribou. Sorry, but I learned to drink coffee in the UK where it's apparently on par with their chocolate--in other words, loaded with cream and sugar.

Now tea, on the other hand..... it pains me that the greasiest fish-and-chip shop in the UK makes far better tea than even high-end restaurants in the States. I've resorted to packing up to a half-gallon of hot or cold whole-leaf tea on any road trip or for lunch.

Jeff Linkous said...

Wawa is deluded to think it's top tier in coffee. Can't say I've had caffeine gravy at mine, they dump the pots at half full quite regularly.

I grind my own beans fresh (or as fresh as I can with that same Cuisinart) each morning, and only turn to Wawa for flavored coffee now and again.

The real thing Wawa needs to be slapped for is for morphing from a decent convenient store into a giant fast-food restaurant with heat-lamped fried food as health-ruinous as Burger King's and gas pumps out front.

Oh well, at least Wawa doesn't have a creepy, Howard Eskin-looking king character starring in its commercials.

Lew Bryson said...

Jeff, I have to admit that I like Wawa partly cuz it's from here. I'd rather support the Philly-area company than 7-11. I haven't noticed the heat-lamp stuff, I guess: not what I'm looking for in Wawa, so I don't see it?

And Sandy, ditto on the "latte and mocha" thing. Yuk. I don't even see it. I want coffee, with half-and-half, period. But...that's me.

Bryce said...

Amen, Brother! I've never been to a Wawa. (They really call themselves Wawa? Really?!?) But we have a similar chain in our area that gets everything right - even occasionally has a few beers beyond Bud - but their coffee is always full of burnt acid.

Lew Bryson said...

Bryce,
It is Wawa, supposedly a native American name for the Canada goose, thought to be onomatopoetic, from the goose's call. They have geese in their corporate 'imagery.'

Rich said...

Not sure if you have them in your area but if you do...Turkey Hill has good coffee...if not stop by one next time you are in Lancaster. I also think that Sheetz holds their own in the coffee department.

Lew Bryson said...

Rich,
I can't begin to tell you how much Turkey Hill Iced Tea I've had in my life, though I don't drink it any more. I'd get a half gallon carton just for driving around, used to drink out 1/4 of the carton and refill it with vodka, back in my young, wild days.

And yeah, I've had good coffee at Sheetz; I've had a lot of good stuff at Sheetz, including good cheap fuel.

Eric Trimmer said...

I worked at the Collegeville, Pa. Wawa in 1998/99 while I was a student at Ursinus.

We didn't marry pots. Coffee was dumped 1/2 hour after it was made.

The store manager was very good. The store was always very clean and the deli stuff and coffee was always fresh.

However, Wawa uses crap coffee.

So even if it is fresh, it isn't very good.

I'm surprised at the number of beer connoisseurs who drink crap coffee.

In fact, if I had to choose between beer and coffee, I'd give up beer in a second.

I get my coffee now from Merlin's, a little independent roaster in Hanover, Pa., just a block and a half from my office.

He also has a location in Gettysburg.

All varieties $9 a pound. Cheaper than Starbucks and he doesn't burn his beans.

Currently drinking Tanzanian Peaberry.

BTW, I do not stand to benefit from plugging Merlin's...

Lew Bryson said...

Eric,
Thanks for the insight. I wonder how much of it depends on the individual manager? That said, I haven't had a good, fresh cup of Wawa coffee in a long time. Started to suck about three years ago, by which time I was definitely drinking better coffee. Wish we had a local roaster, wish we had a local indie coffeeshop.

(Dude, don't throw in a paragraph break after every line, takes up a lot of room in the comments page! Not a big deal, just tidy-obsessive on my part...)

Matthew D Dunn said...

And as much as I hate to say it, to second the opinion (I am a Wawa person at heart), Sheetz has good coffee, in that they have espresso machines at several stores I've seen. There is nothing quite like pulling off 322 in the middle of nowhere and ordering a double shot of fresh brewed espresso. I'm no coffee snob, but to get a nice, strong cup at a gas station in the middle of nowhere is pretty freakin' great.

Lew Bryson said...

Yeah, Sheetz brings good stuff to the middle of nowhere in PA, bless their red-roofed little hearts...not to mention their courageous struggle to capture beer-selling profits!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the array of burners @ wawa is super gross and I almost had to laugh when I heard their latest campaign. I don't get the ever-going burbs argument of wawa vs. D&D for coffee,(unless you want dessert coffee, in which case those cold coollata things kinda rock in 90 degree weather) they both stink most of the time. The question of where to go to get decent but cheap coffee is a vexing one outside of city. Fortunately, in philly with our culture of indy coffee shops we can do this pretty easy - nearly every neighborhood has a decent non-corporate coffee option. As I live in west philly, I often go to Sattelite Cafe next to Dock Street Brewery, or if I'm feeling supercheap I have a cup of la colombe for far less than it costs off rittenhouse at the Restaurant School cafe by 43 & Walnut. Lastly, when working in center city I'll get the tasty fuel at either Metropolitan Bakery or the Last Drop. Again the cup isn't phenomenal at these places, but kicks the crap out of D&D, Wawa, and usually starbucks.

Kevin said...

I used to get a 16oz. cup with the Sunday paper every week to drink while I read the news. Then I realized they sell ground coffee in a one pot size that was cheaper than the 16oz coffee. I think that I can throw that in at home and enjoy a fresh pot. I don't drink enough coffee to grind beans all the time but when I do buy some there are some good roasters in the Collegeville area.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Dunkin Donuts coffee is not good about 50% at 30th Street Station. Philadelphia Java Company (La Columbe) coffee is the only place where the coffee is consistently good. I didn't comment on Wawa since they are so few left.

Anonymous said...

As a Wawa employee, I can tell you we have rules about mixing pots of coffee (NOT ALLOWED!!!) and how long the pots can sit (20 minutes). It IS hard to keep track of the coffee at some times of the day/night when no one person is assigned to making coffee, but sometimes it's just a matter of who is working. A little hint on spotting a fresh pot...it doesn't have a thin ring of light brown goop on top. :)You can also smell if it is not fresh...very noticeable when it's not, at least for me.

Feel free to call and complain if you ever see pot mixing or feel like stopping your coffee buying because of disgusting old pots. 800-444-wawa. The coffee should be yummy.

FYI to the person talking about the cost...it costs a lot more than just the price of the ground coffee as to how much profit we make on a cup. Add in coffee, labor (including cleaning pots, brewers, and warmers), condiments (people take GOBS of this stuff), cups, lids, coffee stirs, milk & creamers, water, cleaner, repairs and new equipment...the price of a cup is very reasonable. Nothing is as cheap as making it at home. :)

Lew Bryson said...

I haven't had a 'yummy' cup of Wawa coffee in a long time. I'll throw in a lot of half and half just to make it palatable. It's burnt, or it's stale. I just choked one down the other day because I had to get some big caffeine in me to function, but I didn't enjoy it.
I dunno. Guys like you sound earnest, and I want to believe, but every time I do...I get a cup full of crap. It's frustrating.

James said...

I agree when the new wawas opened up in quakertown pa they were great but after they been around for a while they started mixing old coffee pots and I haven't been able to get a good cup of the stuff since.

Anonymous said...

You are all complainers... WAWA has teh greatest coffee around and if you don't like it, brew it at home or go pay 3 dollars for Starbucks!!!