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    Wawa Launches Dinner Deals

    The chain's Glen Mills, Pa., store is the first to test take home meal replacement options.

    WAWA, Pa. -- Convenience store operator Wawa launched a dinner deals promotion for its entire 570-unit chain earlier this week, offering customers family-sized dinners and marking the company's first foray into home meal replacement, the Daily Local reported.

    "This is a new era in our history," Howard Stoeckel, company president and chief executive, told the paper, adding he wants to make the chain "the place to go for dinner."

    Dinner deal items -- including ciabatta melts, classic hoagies, salads, Hot-to-Go bowls, chicken strips and family-size soup -- cost $3.99 each, and customers can choose a combination of any three for $9.99, according to the report. The promotion will run through at least June 8, and is available from 4 to 8 p.m. at all of Wawa's stores.

    The program's spring launch was coordinated to capitalize on more daylight hours and parents driving their children to various activities and "people tend to be on the road more," Stoeckel told the paper.

    "Today, convenience drives the dinner decision," he said.

    The need for convenient dinner options is pressing, according to Richard George, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

    "By 4 p.m., half of all American adults do not know what they are going to eat that night," George told the newspaper. "Years ago, people cooked from scratch. Now people want dinner in 30 minutes."

    If Wawa can execute the program properly, "there is real opportunity for success," he said. "This is not for every night, like pizza is not for every night. But if they get customers for one night a week, that's a 15 percent lift in sales."

    The chain's research also shows that offering a dinner selection will satisfy a customer need. Approximately 133 million Americans eat outside the home on a typical day, making up more than half of the U.S. population, according to Wawa's data, which was cited by the paper.

    In addition, the National Restaurant Association estimates Americans will spend $558 billion on restaurant fare alone in 2008, the report stated.

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