Over the last few decades, Sbarro has become known as the pizza company of choice for mall and airports. But, that may soon change as it eases into a revamp, hoping to emulate fast-casual eateries the likes of Panera and Qdoba.
Sbarro will once again begin making tomato sauce fresh and shredding cheese in each restaurant, eschewing prepackaged ingredients. The chain is also introducing open-flame ovens so customers can see their slices cooking or reheating, and it plans to open stores outside of its normal real estate, on street fronts. Four-fifths of Sbarro's current locations are in malls and airport food courts.
The New York Times spoke with Darren Tristano, executive vice president of industry consulting firm Technomic, who noted that several companies are attempting to cross over into fast-casual territory, and it makes sense especially for Sbarro:
“Sbarro fits into the quick service category because of its price point and service format, where nothing is made to order,” Mr. Tristano said. “In malls and food courts, they’ve struggled during the recession, and in their stores in urban and suburban locations, they’re really up against much larger chains in the delivery space.”
Sbarro's plans to re-imagine the chain surfaced in April, when new chief executive Jim Greco, then just weeks into his new role, began talking change. He told Nation’s Restaurant News in April that we was helping to implement a 100-day strategy that included the launch of 10 test units in June, which featured re-jiggered pizzas and made-to-order pasta dishes.
In June, Greco told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that the new pizza recipe is "closer to our original recipe created 50 years ago" and "creates a more authentic flavor and product."
All this comes in the shadow of Sbarro's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing late last year. Greco was brought on board afterward.
It's not just Sbarro that's interested in revamps these days. Earlier this month, Olive Garden announced it would change its famous tagline, "When You're Here, You're Family," its menu and overall ad campaign in an effort to boost sales.
Also this month, Taco Bell gave more details on its planned redesign to coincide with its 50th anniversary. HuffPost reported that the fast food chain's facelift is, in part, an attempt to compete with younger rival Chipotle.
Also on HuffPost:
It's almost inaccurate to call this chicken, because it's really just a delivery system for sauce. Tiny chunks of poultry (we think?) are heavily breaded and tossed in a thick, gelatinous "orange sauce" to form spicy, sweet morsels that would make Escoffier cry into his canard a l'orange. For orange chicken lovers, it's a miracle: The sauce is so thick that it coats the inside of their mouths and they get to taste that flavor for the rest of the day. Gross. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/4899229294/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">jeffreyw</a>.</em>
Another crime against fowl. How Cajun food became a mall staple is beyond comprehension, but it's even more curious because the Cajun food is often just dressed-up Chinese food with a different name. The best rule of thumb here is to avoid any chicken handed to you on a toothpick, whether or not there's mention of bourbon. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mesohungry/4859118138/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">jasonlam</a>.</em>
Take everything you love about steak, throw it out the window and there's your cheesesteak. Instead of the juicy succulence you get from biting into a well-cooked porterhouse, you get thin slices of overcooked beef (from parts unnamed) smashed up with some gooey, flavorless cheese and strewn on a bun that was made two weeks ago. If you're looking for indigestion, congratulations. You've found it. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mroach/158149924/sizes/o/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">mroach</a>.</em>
Corndogs A.K.A. "Hot Dogs on a Stick"
Are hot dogs not portable enough for you? Do you hate having to eat a frankfurter horizontally? Then the corndog is perfect for you. Also, you have major issues. Seriously, who needs corn dogs? As if the tube of mushmeat on a regular dog wasn't bad enough for you, the corndog amps up the calorie count by wrapping the whole thing in deep-fried cornbread. Have you no shame, Sir? <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreanna/2815597393/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Andreanna Moya Photography</a>.</em>
Sbarro's insipid slices of floppy pizza inspire fear in the hearts of Italians everywhere. Apparently, this company takes pride in the quantity over quality approach. With over a thousand locations around the world, there's a good chance you have access to fake pizza wherever you go. (STAY AWAY.) To make matters worse, some Sbarro locations offer a full buffet for those who like to carbo-load as if they're preparing for a triathlon. Nothing says Mama's cooking like 2,400 calories worth of ziti. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thepizzareview/3556741059/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">The Pizza Review</a>.</em>
The biggest problem with mall sushi? You're eating sushi in a mall. Why would you do that to yourself? Sushi is meant to be as absolutely fresh as possible. There's just no way your food court sushi bar is going shopping at the fish market every morning (especially not in Omaha), so save your raw fish cravings for a time that's a little more appropriate -- the next time you're in Okinawa, perhaps. <em> Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/clf/4992774531/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">CLF</a>.</em>
America never really went through a pretzel craze. But that didn't stop Auntie Anne's from starting a mall pretzel monopoly. Out of all the flavors the company offers, there's perhaps none grosser than the Pepperoni Pretzel. It's made for people who think Sbarro is too good for them. Also, it looks like your pretzel got the measles. Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perfectoinsecto/6907913216/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Perfecto Insecto</a>.
Louis CK has an amazing bit about Cinnabons where he describes them as "a six-foot high cinnamon swirl cake made for one sad fat man." That's pretty accurate. Nobody needs a cinnamon bun of that magnitude, especially not when shopping. The only people who should be eating these things are refugees from war-torn countries who have only consumed soup for the past three months. They need to get their strength back and a hearty Cinnabon can do that in minutes -- less if you add in that cup of "frosting." <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fujikinoko/2911840038/" target="_hplink">fujikinoko</a>.</em>
Yet another solution to a non-existent problem. Ice cream is fine as it is. There's no need to put it through Willy Wonka's Wonkavision to shrink it down. If the innovation made ice cream better, it would have some merit, but have you tried Dippin' Dots? They're not better than real ice cream at all! And in the end, it's pretty hard to accept a product that has been engineered to be as fake-tasting as possible. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/acme/2571866655/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">acme</a>.</em>
There is no way to improve upon a <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/03/chocolate-chip-cookies?mbid=synd_huffpo" target="_hplink">chocolate chip cookie</a>. It's perfect just the way it is. Making it bigger and adding frosting just makes it look ridiculous. Cookie cakes are the equivalent of a naturally gorgeous woman getting her make-up done by a drag queen. In the end, you pay attention to the make-up and ignore the simple beauty of what lies underneath. Just keep it natural and everyone goes home happy. Photo by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/redgoober4life/1118459020/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">quasireversible</a>.