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WaWa gas stations are coming to Central Florida, Tampa Bay

WaWa, a Philadelphia area filling station chain that sets itself apart with better fresh food, is lining up sites for expanding into the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas.

Unlike rival megastations that rely on cashiers for food prep, the typical WaWa is staffed with a dozen people most of the time, with two or three full-timers assigned to tend the fresh food counter.

The standard fare includes 10 soups, built-to-suit sandwiches, flatbread quesadillas, salads and hot to-go bowls. Open 24/7, WaWa gets its name from an American Indian word for the Canada goose, a bird common to the Delaware Valley. Stores stock 6,000 items, four times as many as a 7-Eleven. Direct competitors for gas prices are Hess and RaceTrac.

Family owned for three generations, the 560-store chain grew out of a century-old dairy company that branched into farm store retailing in 1964. Today, employees own 29 percent of the company through a stock-ownership plan.

This is WaWa's first expansion south of Virginia. The company envisions opening up to 15 Central Florida locations in two years.

"We've planned this new journey south for a long time," said WaWa spokeswoman Lori Bruce.

New at Citrus Park

Changes are coming to Westfield Citrus Park mall in northwest Hillsborough County.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers returned to the bay area after a lengthy hiatus with a 200-seat restaurant that opened Monday. The restaurant chain has plans to open a second location by November in the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

Sephora, which has a boutique inside a JCPenney in Wesley Chapel, signed a deal to put its third full-line cosmetics store in the bay area at the Citrus Park mall next year.

Kirkland's, the Nashville-based home decor chain, is vacating the mall to reopen this week across the street in Citrus Plaza in a former Famous Footwear. The move puts the store in a space 50 percent larger and fits the company's shift from malls to outdoor centers that are easier for loading customers' cars.

The mall will fill Kirkland's space with a ToyZam! toy store for the holiday season.

English, please

Here's one reason why retailers have been moving their offshore customer care call centers back to English-speaking locales.

Customer satisfaction with foreign call center workers this year sunk as low as the IRS call centers, according to the Call Center Satisfaction Index compiled by the CFI Group.

In 2010 the percentage of U.S. calls routed to customer service centers in other countries dropped to 9 percent, down from 15 percent in 2009.

Best by Zagat

Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill led their menu categories again this year among 136 restaurant chains rated by Zagat Surveys. Bonefish also was tops among all 39 full-service chains rated, including first in service, food and healthy menu choices.

Among the mega fast-food chains, Wendy's took the top spot over Subway, McDonald's and Burger King, while Five Guys won the best burger competition overall and was second to only McDonald's for fries.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

WaWa gas stations are coming to Central Florida, Tampa Bay 08/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 8:30am]

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