Emerging Brands

Pizzerias face growing competition from convenience stores

Wawa and Casey’s are upping their pizza games, threatening to take share from other pizza players.
Wawa exterior
Wawa will be serving pizza chainwide by the end of the month. | Photo: Shutterstock

Convenience stores are generally thought of as places to fill up your gas tank and grab a drink or a snack. But they’re increasingly becoming a source of another consumer staple: pizza.

Two of the largest c-store chains in the U.S.—Wawa and Casey’s General Stores—signaled this week that they are investing more in pizza as they look to take a bigger slice of the approximately $50 billion market. With their large footprints, conveniently located stores and considerable foodservice experience, they could present formidable competition to traditional pizzerias. They also offer delivery via their own apps and third-party aggregators, erasing another advantage once held by pizza chains.

Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa has a reputation as a food-first brand, with a large menu of fresh food including sandwiches, salads and burgers. It also serves pizza in more than half of its 1,000 stores, and it plans to bring pizza to the rest of them by the end of this month, according to a report in New Jersey’s Courier Post.

Wawa sells pizza from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. The thin-crust pies come in two sizes, 14 or 16 inches, and with a variety of toppings, including pepperoni, sausage and mushroom. Prices range from $12.99 for a plain 14-inch pizza to $18.49 for a 16-incher with mushrooms, green peppers and red onions, according to the Courier Post report. 

Wawa is the ninth-biggest c-store chain in the U.S. by unit count, according to Restaurant Business sister media brand CSP, with locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C. 

Casey’s, meanwhile, has long been known as a pizza purveyor. In fact, its more than 2,500 locations would make it the fifth-largest pizza chain in the U.S. by unit count, just behind the 3,180-unit Papa Johns. It makes its pizzas from scratch in stores and serves them all day long: Its breakfast pizza, featuring eggs, cheese, bacon and sausage, is one of its most popular items.

Adding to its foodservice bonafides: CEO Darren Rebelez, who spent more than four years as president of IHOP before joining Casey's in 2019.

The chain is now doubling down on its signature cuisine with a “pizza revamp program,” executives said during an investor day Monday. Brad Haga, Casey’s SVP of prepared foods and dispensed beverages, said the chain is using guest feedback to improve its recipes and quality. It’s also working to remove complexity from the kitchen to boost profits.

One product of this effort has been the introduction of a new crust option for the first time—a thin-crust pizza in addition to Casey's original crust.

“It's really about creating new layers, new occasions,” said SVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Tom Brennan, according to a transcript on financial services site Sentieo. “Thin crust is certainly the first iteration of that on the pizza front, but then also there's all kinds of opportunities when you think about appetizers and sides.”

Other recent pizza innovations at Casey’s include a Beer Cheese Breakfast Pizza, which features cheese made with Busch Light beer, and a BBQ Brisket Pizza that was so popular it was added to the permanent menu.

Casey’s has also invested in new kitchen utensils to make the pizza-cooking process easier and faster, as well as label makers that automatically print UPC codes to speed up checkout.

The Ankeny, Iowa-based chain has locations in 16 states, primarily in the Midwest.

The c-store pizza push comes as the country’s biggest pizza chains have struggled. Sales at No. 1 Domino’s rose just 1.3% last year, while No. 2 Pizza Hut saw a decline of 0.4%, according to Technomic data. Sales at Little Caesars and Papa Johns rose 1.6% and 2.3% respectively last year.

CSP’s Chuck Ulie and Greg Lindenberg contributed to this report.

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