Wawa Pizza: An Investigation

The celebrated convenience store chain recently launched pizza, but it's not in Wawa's wheelhouse.

Wawa, a primarily East Coast convenience store chain known for its hoagies and sandwiches, ambitiously got into the pizza game a few months back. Wawa has always excelled at simple and satisfying lunch foods that double as great drunk fare, so its pizza ought to be a home run. Somehow, though, Wawa managed to drop the ball.

Starting at 4 p.m. each day, you can order 14" or 16" pies directly from Wawa's made-to-order system or through the app. Convenience and quality are core tenets for Wawa. For the drunk, the irritably hungry, and the aimless folks who can't make decisions, Wawa remains a beacon.

It's no surprise that Wawa decided to start offering pizza, as convenience store competitor Casey's has made quite a name for itself slinging pies. The Casey's product is every bit as salty and cheesy as gas station pizza ought to be, and its crust is yeasty and rich, not too thick or too thin. The mozzarella cheese is browned wonderfully; the sauce is sweet and tart. And rather than dying a slow death beneath the heat lamps, Casey's pizza somehow thrives there. No, it's not New York style, but it absolutely rockets past any expectations you'd have for gas station pizza.

So, it should be a piece of cake for Wawa to go ahead and replicate Casey's approach, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

How does Wawa’s new pizza taste?

The pizza at Wawa is just far too basic to justify either the price tag or the wait. It's missing the thoughtfulness and superb flavor of a Casey's pizza. In fact, it tastes like something Wawa rushed out just to stay ahead of the curve.


A lot of people are saying Wawa pizza is on par with what you'd get at Domino's or Little Caesars—that is, a doughy, cheaply made yet satisfying pie—but to me, it tastes like it's a rung below either of those Big Four chains. Wawa's pizza is simply made, featuring whole milk mozzarella, pizza sauce, and a sturdy pizza crust, but it falls drastically short on actual flavor.

The shortcomings come down to the crust. While the undercarriage of the pizza is pretty good (when you hold a slice, it doesn't droop or flop that much), the crust is dry and flat-out bland. Blandness, by the way, isn't exactly something you can make up for after the pie is baked; you can mask it with sauce or other condiments, but the lack of flavor is infused into every bite. You know how pizza sometimes tastes just like the cardboard box which carries it? That's exactly what's going on here.


There's a garlic crust option, which I thought might be a good fix, but all it does is overwhelm the pizza with one-note flavor. Imagine eating a meal that desperately needed salt, and all you had was garlic powder.

The sauce is tart, but doesn't have any balance of sweetness to it. If you've had Casey's, you know the chain has set a high bar for convenience store pizza, and it makes Wawa's product feel even more second-rate.

None of this would be much of an issue if Wawa's pizza didn't take so long to prepare. Our wait for this pizza was nearly 20 minutes. I've been served at sit-down restaurants faster than that. If customers are waiting that long, it might understandably build up the expectations they have for the pizza. After all, anyone can hop on an app and get one delivered to their doorstep. The mediocrity here coupled with the lack of utility is just downright puzzling.

What to get at Wawa instead of pizza

Fortunately, Wawa is still a great option for prepared food that isn't pizza.

The seasonal Gobbler sandwich contains turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on a hoagie roll, and it's worthy of a trip when it's available—which is right now. Like any good Pennsylvanian, you must rely on Wawa for its hoagies. Though plenty of new items rotate in and out, Wawa makes a completely affordable, reasonable, delicious sandwich. The meatball and chicken parm hoagies are beloved by Wawa's ardent fans, and Philadelphia Magazine ranked the classic Italian hoagie as its second best sandwich, right behind The Gobbler.


Though new menu items are always welcome, Wawa's hoagies are unmatched; a 10" sandwich costs about $8 and is endlessly customizable. The cold cuts leave something to be desired, especially if you live in the Philadelphia area where good hoagies are everywhere, but there are so many vegetables, meats, and sauces on offer that the creative freedom of assembling your own hoagie at Wawa is satisfying every single time.

Or you can create your own panini. Paninis have sort of fallen by the wayside in recent years, but for $8, an Italian or ham panini with pickles certainly hits the spot. Sure, Wawa has a billion tricks up its sleeve—quesadillas, burritos, salads, soft pretzels, soup, wings, garlic knots—but its bread and butter has always been sandwiches. And buddy, pizza just ain't a sandwich.