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NEW CASTLE, Del. – Wawa Inc., Royal Farms and 7-Eleven Inc. are in hot competition to be the No. 1 convenience store chain in Delaware, according to a News Journal report.
Wawa, which has 39 Delaware stores and employs approximately 1,300 people in the state, stated it is actively developing sites, but did not discuss specific locations. Its newest stores feature a "kitchenesque" design in order to show off the retailer's wide variety of products, according to Lori Bruce, public relations manager for Wawa.
"Delaware Valley is our hometown — we grew up in Delaware and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Pennsylvania — and we've become the fabric of the local communities, and we think that's how customers look at it, not just the store but the people in the store," stated Wawa CEO Christopher Gheysens. "That's what we obsess about internally — we are in a highly competitive segment. For us, the key differentiator is having an experience that really connects with the local community. We're trying to create an important connection between the store associates and the communities that they serve."
The Pennsylvania-based chain is No. 8 nationally in coffee sales and has stolen market share from Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks Corp. by expanding its program to include products such as macchiatos, lattes and cappuccinos, according to the report. Its latest innovation is baking Amoroso rolls for hoagies on premises.
Royal Farms, which has 24 Delaware stores and at least two more scheduled to open this year, is seeing growth driven by an expanded chicken sandwich line and fresh food offerings, according to Marketing Manager Ed Stronski. All breakfast sandwiches, subs, wraps and regular sandwiches are made in-store to customer specification.
"We also feature our world-famous Royal Farms fried chicken that's fresh, never frozen, hand-breaded in the store and is trans-fat free," Stronski said. "And Royal Farms has hand-breaded Western fries cut from fresh potatoes and also prepared right in the store."
Outside of Delaware, Royal Farms is opening a new prototype location in Hunt Valley, Md., in several weeks.
"It's a whole new look for us," Stronski said. "This store will place a greater emphasis on fast-casual dining and will have a larger menu selection for customers who want to dine in or carry out."
Unlike Wawa and Royal Farms, 7-Eleven sells gasoline at just a few of its Delaware stores, but the chain makes up for it with name recognition, Slurpees and fresh food.
"Today, approximately 90 percent of 7-Eleven stores across the United States and Canada place and receive daily orders for fresh, prepared foods and bakery products from 15 local third-party commissary kitchens and 14 bakeries based in the same regions as the stores they serve," said Margaret Chabris, 7-Eleven’s director of corporate communications.
7-Eleven operates 28 Delaware stores, 23 of which are franchised.
All three chains may be able to seize the opportunity left by Cumberland Farms, which recently announced it is leaving Delaware and New Jersey.