When Jim Greco was named CEO of New York-based Sbarro shortly after the chain filed for Chapter 11 protection, he said the goal was to become the "pre-eminent Italian fast casual brand worldwide."
While the strategy will take a couple of years to implement, the company is currently testing initiatives on a short term, 100-day plan. New recipes and cooking methods have been showcased in 10 units throughout the country since the beginning of June.
Initial sales at those units have jumped more than 10 percent thus far. Additionally, the test restaurants have raised more than $28,000 to fight hunger, providing more than 100,000 meals to local food banks.
At the test units, Sbarro unveiled new recipes and made-to-order pasta stations, complete with sauté pans and open-flame ovens. To highlight the new features, the company organized grand roll-out events at each of the locations complete with roaming violinists, candlelight and checkered tablecloths to create an authentic Italian ambiance in the food courts. Sbarro donated the entire day's proceeds at each of the 10 units to local food banks.
"By all accounts, the grand roll-out events were a huge success in bringing Sbarro's authentic Italian heritage to life," Greco said. "We received great feedback on the new recipes and gained valuable insight from an operational level. Local dignitaries, company executives, community members and other guests all joined together to experience the new look, feel and taste of Sbarro. The events united the communities and that is exactly what we wanted to achieve."
Food banks that received the entire day's proceeds include:
- Mid-Ohio Food Bank in Columbus, Ohio;
- Philabundance in Philadelphia, Pa.;
- Feeding America San Diego in San Diego;
- St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix;
- Houston Food Bank in Houston;
- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.;
- Rhode Island Community Food Bank in Providence, R.I.;
- Feeding South Florida in West Palm Beach, Fla.;
- Greater Chicago Food Depository in Chicago; and
- Oregon Food Bank in Portland, Ore.
Sbarro has 50 to 60 new international openings planned throughout the remainder of 2012. In addition, the company will be introducing a new pizza recipe in the fall, and a new prototype restaurant model will be unveiled in early 2013.
Check out some of Sbarro's new dishes and cooking methods here.
Read more about operations management.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.