Consider me a victim of mass marketing.
After weeks of trying to avoid the massive billboards that read “Wawa has pizza” starting at 4 p.m, I finally caved in and tried one.
I’m going to keep this short: I’ll never eat another slice again.
Wawa’s new pizza is edible, but an utter disappointment — a sloppily assembled pie with bland toppings and a dry basic crust. For those who might argue “it’s from a convenience store, be for real,” I would retort that even the uninspiring pizza sold at 7-Eleven outshines this. I should have known better, but for a company to spend so much money promoting something as universally popular as pizza — I didn’t expect it to flop this hard.
Which begs the question: Who even asked for this?
Since the pandemic, it seems as if Wawa — the beloved convenience store chain known more for their tasty hoagies and coffee — is trying to have a fast-food empire with the expansion of other known entrées. In 2021, they premiered a dinner menu that included burgers, fries, and pasta bowls that was fairly well-received. These meal items weren’t as enticing as Wawa’s reliable hoagies (or even respectable paninis), but it also didn’t feel as discomforting as it now does seeing them attempt to roll out pizza.
In a city like Philadelphia that excels at making anything with dough (hoagie/cheesesteak rolls, soft pretzels, pasta, bagels, Tastykakes, and pizza), one can’t just release anything that includes this local staple without careful consideration. For all of the influencers on social media who were picked to promote this pizza, for all of the large billboards plastered all over town to sell it — did anyone ever stop to think why Wawa felt the need to go this route in the first place? Sure, Wawa has pizza – but do we need it?
Here’s some advice for the company: Less is more.
With a noticeable rise in smaller local restaurants shutting down due to post-pandemic/recession hardships, it’s hard not to view Wawa’s recent move as anything less than an over-calculated money grab. Over the years, there’s been a mass exodus of niche coffee shops following the expansion of Starbucks and Dunkin’ spots in Philadelphia. With already a lion’s share of fast-food real estate across the region, I’m concerned that the little pizza joints in my neighborhood will have it a lot harder now that the Wawa location nearby is trying to compete.
We have seen these scenarios play out so often in the food scene that it’s more predictable than not: Big corporations capitalizing off of something that can be potentially detrimental to smaller businesses. For example, I couldn’t help but cringe when I saw that Wawa placed their pizza billboard on top of Bella Italia Pizza in Ardmore. Since 1982, Bella Italia Pizza has been owned and operated by Vito and Maria Cilluffo, two Sicilian immigrants who came to this country for opportunity. To see such corporate marketing compete so obnoxiously in front of their family-owned business is disheartening — especially when Bella’s pizza is exponentially better.
Perhaps we should all do our part in telling Wawa to reconsider their latest pizza push — one that’s previously failed two times. Let’s make it a point to continue to eat super local by getting our pizza from places who deserve our support now more than ever — whether it’s the mission-driven Down North Pizza in North Philly or the big-portions-for-less Angelo’s Pizzeria in South Philly. It’s not enough to simply ignore what’s happening in front of us — if there was ever a time to support local restaurants, this would be it.