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Sbarro Comes Out of Bankruptcy with a New Face


Sbarro, after weaving in and out of debt, is back in business!

Three months after the mall pizza chain admitted defeat and filed for Chapter 11, Sbarro has pulled out of bankruptcy and is back in the ring again. They have returned with new owners, less debt, and a headquarters move to Columbus, Ohio, according to Forbes. Sbarro is reportedly also trying a new pizza concept called the “Pizza Cucinova,” which debuted in several Ohio locations last year. The concept of Pizza Cucinova is to serve customers personalized, ready-to-order pizza creations, assembly-line style — what many industry insiders are starting to call the “Chipotle effect.”

“We want to thank our stakeholders for their steadfast support,” the company said in a statement. “The company now can move forward with its plans to invest in and grow the business. We will be announcing progress and further plans for the business in the near future.”

The short-term bankruptcy reportedly did not really affect the more than 800 Sbarro locations worldwide.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


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Sbarro is out of dough April 2, 2011 6:05 AM Subscribe

How does the logic work in the mind of a vendor doing business with a pizza company with $365,000,000 of debt do the logic? Does it look like this:

Sbarro- "hey, send me $2,000,000 in pepperoni!"

Vendor- "ummm , ah, you already owe me for the $5,000,000 worth of cheese I sent last week."

Sbarro- "awww, come-on pepperoni guy, please. pretty please. :-) "

'cuz, that would be stupid, right?
posted by tomswift at 6:17 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel partially responsible.

Was at a Sbarro's in an Ohio rest area a couple months ago. Asked for a salad, a slice and a breadstick. Gentleman said the salad was cruddy so he gave it to me for free. He forgot the breadstick and when I mentioned it he gave me three for free. Then he gave me the wrong kind of pizza and I didn't say anything.

As I was eating, he realized he had given me the wrong pizza and he brought me the right one and a complete refund and I was sitting before a feast fit for five kings and ended up throwing most of it away.

The salad was fine.
posted by _aa_ at 6:22 AM on April 2, 2011 [111 favorites]

Having been in this position, I think it really goes more like this:

Sbarro- "hey, send me $2,000,000 in pepperoni!"

Vendor- "ummm , ah, you already owe me for the $5,000,000 worth of cheese I sent last week."

Sbarro- "You know we're good for it. Besides, we're your biggest client. You need our business. There are hundred of small suppliers that would give their left nut for a shot at a big client like us. Do you really want them to get a foothold in your market you've spent years developing?

Sbarro- "And send another $5.000,000 worth of cheese.

tomswift I've got a guess, based on some temp work I did a while back for a fairly largish regional book/video/magazine/etc chain. I was doing mindless cube work, so I had a lot of attention to spare for the phone conversations going on around me.

Every cube in the area I was in was filled with people who appeared to have one job: taking calls from vendors and informing them that the chain would not be paying them on time, would not tolerate any late fees or other penalties for failure to pay on time, and expected their new orders to be filled ASAP.

It was apparently the corporate policy that vendors got paid only after several months had passed.

Being a largish regional chain they had the advantage over the smaller vendors. The vendors accepted that they'd get paid, eventually, and that cutting the chain off would mean they'd never get paid, so they accepted the lousy deal.

I can easily see Sbarro pulling exactly what you describe, and the vendor going along because they expected to be paid, eventually, if only they'd put up with the crap from the large retailer.

On preview, what Mcable said.
posted by sotonohito at 6:39 AM on April 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

I really learned a lot at that job. Not much of it had to do with cooking Italian food.

go onnnn.
posted by pwally at 6:43 AM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

It was apparently the corporate policy that vendors got paid only after several months had passed.

I can easily see Sbarro pulling exactly what you describe, and the vendor going along because they expected to be paid, eventually, if only they'd put up with the crap from the large retailer.

This is SOP for so many big companies that the vendors probably didn't even blink. I worked for a certain international business machine company years ago that let every bill age 90 days before they would even look at them.
posted by briank at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sbarro for me will forever be linked to a student film shoot I worked on in the early 90's. The setting for the entire movie was the small island in the middle of Times Square right across from Sbarros. Somehow the director had received a permit from the city to film there and myself and the entire crew were entrenched on that island for 4 or 5 days, mostly in the late night hours.

Sbarros became a oasis and refuge during our rare breaks. I saw many a strange scene there and within that short period I successfully fulfilled my lifetime quota of meals at Sbarros. Their spaghetti and meatballs wasn't the worse meal I've ever had, I'll say that for it. They keep their restaurant warm when it's cold outside. There's another positive for you.
posted by jeremias at 6:58 AM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I do always choose Sbarro when faced with the Food Court Sophie's Choice of questionable Chinese food or Sbarro. Congealed pizza has yet to have severe gastrointestinal consequences for me.

Thankfully, the international terminal at Logan Airport now has an Au Bon Pain, sparing me from facing down General Tso halfway over the Atlantic.
posted by sonika at 7:13 AM on April 2, 2011 [12 favorites]

You know, if I ran my life like the big companies appear to operate, they would have me in jail. How does this continue?

When you owe the bank $100,000, it's your problem. When you owe them $1,000,000,000, it's their problem.

(Paraphrased from Rosalie Goes Shopping the amounts should probably be updated, since owing a bank a million bucks doesn't seem that extraordinary anymore.)
posted by rtha at 7:15 AM on April 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

I managed a Sbarro's for several years back in the early 90's, in a mall about 60 miles north of Seattle. I don't know how much things changed since then, but at the time all of the food was ordered through a company that was owned by the childhood friend of Sbarro's owner. The thing was, all of our food came from New Jersey. (I'll pause here while you look at a map and calculate the distance a food/produce delivery truck has to drive from New Jersey to Seattle.)

The food ordering process consisted of doing an inventory of my food on hand, adding in the quantities of food currently en route, calculating the anticipated usage in the next two weeks, and ordering the difference. My food truck might show up anytime between Monday and Thursday on the second week after I placed the order. If I was running low on something early in the week, I had to call around to other stores upstream to figure out where the truck was, so I could make a judgement call on whether or not to by some local supplies to get me by until the truck arrived.

For canned goods it was no big deal, I could always keep a l little extra on hand (within reason), but for spoil-able produce it was a real balancing act. Buying locally would be more expensive and blow my food cost, ordering too much would lead to spoilage and blow my food cost, ordering too little would cause me to run out and have to buy locally and blow my food cost.

In one memorable incident, the delivery truck broke an axle going through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and our delivery was delayed by over a week. We actually got the following shipment before we got that one, which arrived the next day. Two weeks of nothing, and then two full shipments within 48 hours, and my tiny little mall store had nowhere to put all of the supplies.

Any sane business would utilize local/regional distributors at least for the the spoil-able items, but instead we were stuck with a distributor that made perfect sense in New York/New Jersey, and progressively less sense the further away you were from there.

I am not at all shocked that they have gone bankrupt.
posted by Lokheed at 7:19 AM on April 2, 2011 [141 favorites]

That $365mn (or most of it, anyway) isn't going to be owed to suppliers, but to banks (see the third link "the chain. notified lenders on Jan. 3 that it expected to default under a credit agreement").

So the banks will work out a deal where they get ownership of the company (or at least of shares in the company) in exchange for writing off the debt. Some of the lenders might not get anything, those will be ones who charged higher interest in the first place, in exchange for accepting more risk.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:41 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

sbarro's is okay if you absolutely must eat in a mall food court.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing okay about that statement.
posted by eriko at 7:44 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've heard it said that even bad pizza is good pizza. I believed this. Then I ate at Sbarro.

Sbarro is good bad pizza. Dominos is also good bad pizza. Pizza Hut is bad bad pizza. Chicago style "pizza" is neither good nor pizza.
posted by DU at 7:45 AM on April 2, 2011 [35 favorites]

Their stromboli were good for when you absolutely, positively had to drop a massive cheese bomb on your gut on the way out of the Pittsburgh airport.

Chicago style "pizza" is neither good nor pizza.

Flagged as go fuck your mother.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:49 AM on April 2, 2011 [144 favorites]

Chicago style "pizza" is neither good nor pizza.

Excuse me?
posted by phaedon at 7:52 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It can be good, but it is not pizza. it's a pie.

Distinctions are important
posted by The Whelk at 7:53 AM on April 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

I swear I was getting some decent pizza at a Sbarros a few years back. It really surprised me. Nothing fancy, just a slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni, but they had clean, fresh flavors and the dough had a surprisingly nice texture, a good ratio of chewiness to crispiness. Way better than anything from the big chains like Pizza Hut (blechh). The manager was a handsome young Italian guy who always seemed happy to be there, and proud of his food, as did the people behind the counter.

But after about a year, the management changed, and so did the crew, and it went downhill fast. Now they just kind of grunt when taking your order, and the pizza tastes like it was made the day before.
posted by puny human at 7:54 AM on April 2, 2011

It's not great food but nothing you're going to get in a turnpike food court is.

Subway is nothing to write home about, but you can get relatively healthy food there. It certainly beats eating at Cracker Barrel or Wendy's when on the road.
posted by Scoo at 7:54 AM on April 2, 2011

Sbarro is good bad pizza. Dominos is also good bad pizza.

X is to Y. I've turned down free Dominos when hungry. Also, the correct choice when forced to buy food at a rest stop is always peanuts or mixed nuts.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also isn't dominos owned by some crazy right-wing church group?

The Domino's owner is more Catholic than the pope.

There was a Sbarro's in the Duluth MN mall food court and back in the early 90's (when malls were still a Big Deal) it was better than average. I had Sbarro's a few years ago and was surprised at how terrible it had gotten.

Either that or my teenage tastebuds pretty much ate anything back in the day.
posted by unixrat at 8:10 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you owe the bank $100,000, it's your problem. When you owe them $1,000,000,000, it's their problem.

(Paraphrased from Rosalie Goes Shopping the amounts should probably be updated, since owing a bank a million bucks doesn't seem that extraordinary anymore.)

When you misread your statement and mistake what you owe the bank as one million when it's actually one billion it's a problem for both you and the bank. :)
posted by Babblesort at 8:11 AM on April 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

This is a good case study for one of the fundamental problems facing the finance industry: overextending credit. As someone said above, when you owe the bank $10,000 that's your problem When you owe the bank $1,000,000 dollars, it's their problem.

It's not uncommon for largish companies with these kinds of credit lines and debt to purposely declare bankruptcy in an effort to force creditors to renegotiate terms: "Okay Citibank, I know we owe you $500 million, but unless you're willing to work with us on that debt, we're going to just default on it."

In some cases, the owners will simply default, let the banks duke it out in receivership and wait for the shell company to be put up for sale. At that point in time the original owners will often place a bid to buy back the company with significantly reduced/eliminated debt burden and rebuild from there.
posted by tgrundke at 8:18 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

But after about a year, the management changed, and so did the crew, and it went downhill fast. Now they just kind of grunt when taking your order, and the pizza tastes like it was made the day before.

Yea, the thing is that while pizza is pizza- a basic pie crust, sauce, cheese, and possibly toppings- there is a lot that goes in to making that pizza taste well. I worked both at our University pizza joint and a Pizza Hut express in between jobs and management really can set a tone.
-The pie crust comes frozen, and you're supposed to poof it by putting it in a warmer for an hour or so depending on it's size & thickness. At Pizza Hut Express at least, after it was done poofing, you're supposed to put the pies back in a cooler for x time to finish the process. Now granted you can just take a pie out frozen and whip it in to the oven, or not finish the process properly, but it tastes like shit. The whole process takes from 2-3 hours and due to lunch rushes and laziness, it doesn't always get done. If you ever get a crappy pizza fro Express, it's either because they screwed up the poofing process or they left pizza out on the warmers too long. 'Cause you see, pizzas are only supposed to be on warmers for 20 minutes. But during slow times especially, we get lazy and forgo making a new batch of pizzas every 15 minutes when you know you're gonna throw all of them away anyways.
-The toppings. They normally come frozen, and like the pie crust, you're supposed to let them thaw out to the cooler temperature. But again, it's a lot easier to just pull stuff from the freezer and skip the intermediary step of thawing your toppings out.
-The pizza sauce. At the University pizza place, we mixed a few sauces together to make the magic happen. I saw more than a few people get lazy and try to just take the tomato paste and not add the other stuff in. Luckily from a production standpoint, the difference between pizza sauce and tomato paste is fairly obvious.

The thing is that about all of these points, skimping on any of them can screw up what would normally be an scrumptious concoction of greasy awesomeness. And when you work in pizza places, at the cost of stereotyping here a bit, managers aren't always the cream of the crop and instill that pride into their workers. And when you're making minimum wage, the drive to always be the best pizza maker you can be isn't always there.
posted by jmd82 at 8:30 AM on April 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

Chicago style "pizza" is neither good nor pizza.

Everyone already knows this, except for those poor, untravelled souls who out of desperation find themselves walking through the doors of the closest Pizzeria/Grill/Whathaveyou Uno. Thankfully, we're down to two locations in Boston, both within walking distance. Hope to see both of them go. And yes, I've been to Chicago and no, that cannot be considered a cultural statement.

Would this amount of interest/outrage be sparked if Panda Express or Sarku Japan deprived us of the privilege of dining at one of their food court locations?
posted by jsavimbi at 8:32 AM on April 2, 2011

When you misread your statement and mistake what you owe the bank as one million when it's actually one billion it's a problem for both you and the bank. :)

I blame my lack of caffeine! Still, I bet if you owe the bank a billion-with-a-B dollars, it's more their problem than yours, what with you being too big to fail and all!
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was always amused at all the Sbarro joints clustered around Midtown, luring in the poor tourists. I looked on them with the sort of pity one might reserve for the unfortunate soul who throws away a winning lottery ticket.

Not all tourists are Michael Scott despite what New Yorkers tell themselves as they fall asleep in their $3000 a month studios.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:50 AM on April 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Not all tourists are Michael Scott despite what New Yorkers tell themselves as they fall asleep in their $3000 a month studios.

Not all New Yorkers live in Manhattan & Brooklyn.
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on April 2, 2011 [13 favorites]

This will wipe out the private equity guys, allow them to get out of some shitty leases in bad malls and they will be back selling bad pizza, cold pasta and limp salad to the tourist mooks in no time.

As a native NYer who loves pizza and who lived in Chicago, I can say that a deep dish stuffed spinach pizza on a cold Sunday afternoon while drinking beers and smoking and watching Da Bears is as close to heaven as you can get west of Lake Erie.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:56 AM on April 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

3-4 years ago I made it a point to walk to the other end of the mall and have Sbarro's supreme pizza along with their Greek Salad and a Mountain Dew. I was only working weekends so having it was sort of the treat of the week, and it was also the cheapest diverse meal in the mall. Made real good friends with the staff there and even attempted to date one of the staff there at the recommendation of the manager (female) who was frankly real awesome.

So it was real sad when the store closed about 2 years ago, and had to resort to Chipotle which was a bit more expensive (but also a bit more healthy too). Met up with them as they closed up shop, and then would end up running into the manager when I took the once in a while trip to another mall in the area.

Do I know better pizza than Sbarro's? Of course. Do I know worse pizza than Sbarro's? Absolutely. It was good stuff. Their breadsticks were essentially grease bombs, and their salads were pretty much salads with crutons, and that's all, but decent.

The people I friended though, that was the kicker.

It's not uncommon for largish companies with these kinds of credit lines and debt to purposely declare bankruptcy in an effort to force creditors to renegotiate terms: "Okay Citibank, I know we owe you $500 million, but unless you're willing to work with us on that debt, we're going to just default on it."

Of course Citi could turn around and threaten to take the company over, by enforcing its security over the company's shares or assets. So I think you're more likely to see borrowers and lenders working together (as in this case, where they've agreed a pre-arranged debt-for-equity swap). And lenders are generally pragmatic about this - they know its tough out there and that there's no real benefit for them in forcing companies into insolvency.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2011

I won't lie, I'm kind of sad Sbarro is closing. When I was little the only Sbarro places I ever saw were on the east coast when we'd go to visit family. I was a really picky eater (still am, but I'm much better now), and Sbarro was generally the only place at airports and malls that had something I'd eat. And, to a 6 year-old, their slices of pizza were the most massive things I'd ever seen. It was like three slices of normal Book-It pizza I'd get at home. I thought I was pulling a fast one on my mom every time she let me get a piece of Sbarro pizza. Add to that was the influence of my cool older cousin, who drew comics and read real books and slept in a water bed and ate Sbarro pizza and I was over the moon.

So I'm going to miss Sbarro, because every time I ate it I simultaneously felt like I was getting away with something I shouldn't be and my cool older cousin. The quality of the food wasn't even an issue.
posted by lilac girl at 9:07 AM on April 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

Other here have hinted at it, but welcome to the fractional banking scam.

It's empty pizza boxes all the way down.
posted by dbiedny at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Had a friend who worked at wwhat was, at the time, the 3rd largest greeting card company in the world. Their AR for one client (the second largest grocery store in the country) was 12 months and 7 figures.

They eventually got bought out by American Greetings.
posted by Mick at 9:11 AM on April 2, 2011

Chicago style "pizza" is neither good nor pizza.

You know, a year ago I would have agreed with you on this one. I'm a native New Yorker, and am hardwired to dislike Chicago deep-dish pie. Then, when on a trip there, my friend Will brought me to Giordano's in Rosemont, where I had a spinach pizza. It was very, VERY good. You just shouldn't think of it as being in the same culinary category as a New York foldable slice - other than the ingredients, it's just not. But it's good eats just the same.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:14 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

invitapriore : I was always amused at all the Sbarro joints clustered around Midtown, luring in the poor tourists. I looked on them with the sort of pity one might reserve for the unfortunate soul who throws away a winning lottery ticket.

I thought that way too, seeing the huge lines at Red Lobster & Olive Garden in Times Square during the summers. The truth is, as there are plenty of places to have a great meal in NYC, there are also a ton of places to have a shitty meal. Paying top dollar for the privilege of that crappy meal, might I add. For the tourist from Sheboygan, its easer to go with the devil you know than take a chance elsewhere.
posted by dr_dank at 9:24 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

My bowels are doing the Happy Dance right now.

A little victory jig, if you will.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:24 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't understand how anyone goes broke selling pizza and pasta. What is cheaper to make and has a higher profit margin than pizza and pasta?

Food waste can be a good cause. You know how when you go up to a Sbarro/X Pizza Express and there's pizzas just laying out there? There's a life expectancy that depends on your setup. When I worked at the Pizza Hut Express selling those miniature personal pan pizzas, I'd estimate we sold between 60-100 pizzas during lunch rush, and about half that during the dinner hours. Now, between 10-11:30 and 1pm-5pm, our sales were few and far between. Consider that we needed to have 6-10 pizzas out at any given time with a life expectancy of 20-30 minutes. That meant that during those off hours, we could throw away almost as many as we sold during rush hour.

Now granted this is a relatively uncommon example if the food industry world, but food waste costs is usually a fairly decent line item regardless of your food establishment. And be much greater depending on your setup:

Another example is a different dining hall at my Alma Mater where all the food was out in those hot trays. Again, there was life expectancy to that food- maybe an hour? I don't recall for sure anymore. During the afternoon, the dining hall was dead and we got very little business. This caused the food trays to go unused which meant that hour would quickly pass and most the trays were still full. Untouched in some cases. Already having a reputation as the worst dining hall on campus, that reputation was not hard to maintain as we'd leave the trays out just a littttttle bit longer to decrease our wasted food cost just a little. Plus, you feel bad throwing away full tray after food tray. However, leaving the food out longer than we were supposed to caused the food to look & taste even worse, meaning less people wanted to east it than normal.

Compare that with the dining hall I usually worked out where the majority of food was not served in hot trays, but rather made to order and consequently much less food waste.
posted by jmd82 at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Two things come to mind here.

1) Beware of being the roller, when there's nothing left to roll. - Shel Silverstein

2) If one had ever eaten at a Sbarro, this is not a surprising development. Rule of thumb before you loan anyone $365M. try the product first.

I'm going to weigh in on this one.

Sbarro is actually good pizza.

It's under appreciated, but they do a pretty good pseudo-neopolitan pizza that is rather difficult to find in the USA. The crust is thin and chewy instead of flaky like a cracker. The sauce is not over seasoned, and has a sweetness, probably because they use canned tomatoes. They use basil. The cheese is dry mozzarella, but it's fine.

The other big pizza chains are not capable of making a pizza like that.

I'm pretty rabid about neapolitan (real) pizza. I got hooked a couple years ago, and last Summer I traveled to Naples purely to eat a shit load of their extraordinary pizza. And tonight I'm going to travel 45 minutes out of my way to get to an overpriced "neapolitan" pizza restaurant that does an okay job. So this makes me a bit sad.
posted by colinshark at 9:43 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sbarro is actually good pizza.

The gaskets have blown.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:46 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not all New Yorkers live in Manhattan & Brooklyn.
yes, technically they ALL live in Manhattan. but I'm a zip code snob.

and your mother should also be aware that Pizzeria UNO:Chicago-style Pizza::Sbarro's:food in general. Giardano's is the BOMB. you will need to take a nap afterwards, but still. the bomb.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't understand how anyone goes broke selling pizza and pasta. What is cheaper to make and has a higher profit margin than pizza and pasta?

Grand Master of American finance, Donald Trump, apparently has a series of casinos in the process of heading into/being in bankruptcy. In monetary LaLa Land, anything is possible, apparently.
posted by dbiedny at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'll admit it. I've eaten at Sbarro's and actually enjoyed it.

Of course, I only eat their breadsticks. I know they're crappy, but they're tasty. I never get their marinara sauce for dipping, though. The best analogy I can come up with for their marinara sauce is watery tomato juice. I've never seen any sort of tomato-based sauce in anything resembling an Italian eating establishment that was that watery in consistency.

I've had their pizza once before, I think, followed by an almost immediate sprint for the nearest restroom. As Hank Hill memorably said of ballpark nachos, "You don't buy 'em, you only rent' em." Not quite as bad as the worst pizza I ever ate (in Stephenville, NL), but worse than Pizza Hut's "well, their pizza was good a quarter-century ago" pizza.
posted by jhandey at 9:51 AM on April 2, 2011

Really? Have you tried Dominos or Papa Johns or Little Caesars? That stuff is offensive. An insult to all of mankind.
posted by puny human at 10:08 AM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

The pizza situation in Calgary is so bad that I actually liked getting Sbarro once in a while. It's the best food court pizza here by far. It's thin, soft, foldable, and I can taste some quality ingredients. The sauce is sweet and doesn't taste like bitter herbs. The slices at the other food court places taste like a McCain frozen pizza made in your home oven.

I hope another American chain replaces it because god knows we're almost incapable of making good pizza ourselves.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:11 AM on April 2, 2011

And speaking of food court meals that have surprised me, on a trip to Peru last month (a trip sadly cut short after I contracted a wicked case of Dengue fever) I had a cappuccino at the Starbucks in the Lima airport and not only was it better than any Starbucks I have had in the states, it was quite simply one of the best cappuccinos I have had anywhere, ever. Like I ripped the paper cup in half so I could lick the foam off the bottom good.

I tried the same order at some local starbucks when I got home and nope, just the same flat, stale, listless gloop as it always is.
posted by puny human at 10:27 AM on April 2, 2011

The founder of Domino's was Dominic DiVarti. The original Domino's was in Ypselanti, MI. The original store expanded into a small regional chain. I think Purina purchased it from Dominic and they took it national. It's changed hands several times since then.

I worked for Dominic for a while during the late 70's in Ann Arbor, MI. If you are familiar with the area just south of the law school at the UofM, Dominic's restaurant and pizzaria is across from the law library. His cousin Sylvio and I did the stonework and slate floors around the restaurant complex and the tile work in the upstairs kitchen.

I left before the semicircular fountain in the back courtyard was completed, but I split all the rocks it is made of and dug the foundation by hand. Somewhere in the back yard is a metal sculpture made by Commander Cody when he was an art student at UofM.
posted by warbaby at 10:35 AM on April 2, 2011 [19 favorites]

Dominic's is a restaurant? All this time I just thought it was a place to recycle old mason jars.


Looking forward to doing some recycling as soon as it gets warm
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:40 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the restaurant is/was upstairs. I was there in 1977-1980, so this is oral history from a long time ago. I tell the tale as it was told to me.

I've never been back, but I have seen the fountain is still there on Google aerial photos. I understand Dominic died a while ago and I think his son Dave took it over.

If you are familiar with the site, there's two houses joined by a balcony and shared roof. We tore the roof off both houses and joined them together. The original ground floor of the west house was the pizzeria. We excavated and joined the two basements to enlarge the indoor pizza seating. A lot of engineering went into keeping that place standing during construction.
posted by warbaby at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Giordano's filed for bankruptcy in February

NOOOOOOOO. Don't go, Giordano's!

*dreams of stuffed spinach pizza*
posted by thomas j wise at 11:11 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know, a year ago I would have agreed with you on this one. I'm a native New Yorker, and am hardwired to dislike Chicago deep-dish pie. Then, when on a trip there, my friend Will brought me to Giordano's in Rosemont, where I had a spinach pizza. It was very, VERY good.

Likewise, for me New York pizza was the gold standard, but on Dec 27 when I couldn't fly from Ohio to NYC and had to go back to London via Chicago, I was taken to dinner by MeFite youngergirl44 - to Giordano's, and the pie was to die for.

I ate Sbarro 'pizza' once. That was enough.
posted by essexjan at 11:16 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

it is crazy.
posted by The Whelk at 11:22 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yea, I find that Sbarro's was overpriced for a slice of pizza and the pizza itself wasn't all that great.

Although I do feel some nostalgia with some locations, I'd be okay if it had to shut down.
posted by kayalovesme at 11:38 AM on April 2, 2011

briank wrote: "This is SOP for so many big companies that the vendors probably didn't even blink. I worked for a certain international business machine company years ago that let every bill age 90 days before they would even look at them."

Hell, I know of very small companies that do the same thing. Needless to say, I don't do business with them any more. There are too many people who will pay their bills on time to bother with those who don't, at least at my (very) small scale. )

tommasz wrote: "I am trying to imagine what it's like to owe that much. It's like losing $1,000,000 a day for an entire year. That seems almost impossible unless their customers were just taking the food and not paying for it. I'm in (a kind of) awe."

It's not that hard when you have hundreds of stores that consistently lose money because either the store managers don't give a shit or can't get the necessary support from on high to lose even more money for a while in the effort to make things better. Basically, once you have a culture of shittiness established in a store, it can't be turned around without spending a lot of money, and if nobody authorizes the expenditure of that money, you will instead continuously lose money on a given location until you close it, and if you can't or won't close it, you end up losing a lot of money.
posted by wierdo at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You just shouldn't think of it as being in the same culinary category as a New York foldable slice - other than the ingredients

That's what I said: It's not pizza. It's more like. an open-faced spaghetti sandwich.
posted by DU at 12:10 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is a Sbarro in the mall food court in my hometown. A friend of mine worked there when we were in high school, so unfortunately I've eaten it.

Notably, my brother and I were just talking last week about how there was still a Sbarro in that very mall. That Sbarro, we noted, was the only food court location that hadn't changed multiple times over the years. The other was the Great Steak and Potato. Which came into the food court while I was in high school. At first their sign wasn't complete, the sign man needed a Hot Sam pretzel I guess (autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking - not part of the food court). For several days the sign read: The Great Steak and Pot. We thought that was pretty hilarious.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:02 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

jmd82: Just a quick note. The term is proofing. Used to work as an overnight baker at a Red Apple supermarket in NYC. You don't proof the bread dough, you get a rock. It's the same for pizza dough.

I had always thought it was 'poofing' because the dough, well, poofs up from being a rock and assumed that's where the name came from. Guess I subconsciously ignored the 'r' all this time!
posted by jmd82 at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2011

I've eaten at Sbarro. Was pretty good, actually. Is it some sort of status thing to bash certain foods, because of who makes them or who eats them?

Anyway, the challenge for large organizations is making quality scale. Hate to go all "means of production" but a manager on the ground, who's also an owner, is much more likely to be paranoid about losing money (and not making it up in volume) than some random manager. Thus the success of the franchise model.
posted by effugas at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I knew it was "proofing" but I have to say, I like "poofing" better :)

Time to poof the dough!
posted by puny human at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2011

When I was 7 or 8 or so I used to like eating at Sbarro in the Danbury Fair Mall, not so much for their food but because the 2 walls on either side of the place were covered in huge mirrors and I used to get a kick out of seeing an infinite number of smaller and smaller reflections of reflections of myself if I looked to either side. I was kinda disappointed when I visited the mall again a few months ago and found they remodeled their food court, including turning Sbarro's seating area into another store.

Anyway, it's nice to know that being almost half a billion dollars in debt isn't stopping them from opening a new location in the Staten Island Mall.
posted by Venadium at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2011

Really? Have you tried Dominos or Papa Johns or Little Caesars? That stuff is offensive. An insult to all of mankind.
posted by puny human

Yeah, I live in Michigan were most of those chains are based. Still, worst pile of cheese mess I have seen.
Cottage Inn is Ok
posted by clavdivs at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2011

Offensive? An insult to all mankind?

Really?
posted by effugas at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2011

Papa John's and (the new) Domino's honestly ain't that bad. Not as good as you'll get at a decent Italian place, but not inedible.

And for everyone who turns their nose up in disgust at Sbarro's and the like, you have not tasted disgusting pizza until you've eaten at CiCi's Pizza Buffet. All you can eat pizza, pasta, salad, and dessert for $5.

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to go to CiCi's all the time because, well, it was cheap, we could eat a ton of food and drink gallons of soda, and we were teenagers. We would even have contests to see who could eat the most. For a while I held the record at 26 slices of pizza. A friend of mine eventually beat me with 31 slices (although I still think it doesn't count because he didn't eat the crusts).

Many years later, I decided to go to a CiCi's for old-time's sake. It was like eating evil death, like all the grotesqueries of a Hieronymous Bosch painting shoved down your throat. The food was so gross and made me so sick, I think that when I was on the toilet later, I shit out my soul.

That's bad pizza.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2011 [38 favorites]

Even New Haven style pizza is awesome

Lay with your uncouth mother as if the two of you were from Chicago.

New Haven is the best.
posted by zippy at 2:05 PM on April 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

For a while I held the record at 26 slices of pizza.

My friends and I had a similar thing going at Papa Gino's (New England chain of pizzarias) when I was in high school. They had AYCE pizza on Tuesdays and AYCE pasta on Wednesdays. I held the record for pizza for a long time with 13 slices (but that's 13/6 pizzas - and those pizzas were a yard across. Glurk.) because my firend and my brother and I stopped, me at 7 slices (that's a large pie plus a slice), my brother at 6, my friend at 5. Then my friend said, "Well, I don't want to be LAST" and ordered up a slice. My brother said, "Well, I don't want to be tied for last" and ordered up a slice. So I said, "I want to be first" and ordered up a slice. And so forth for another six slices. Glurk. I don't remember my pasta record but I sure don't ever crave ziti with beef ragu.

But Papa Gino's is (or was) at least reasonably good, particularly next to Cici's or Sbarros. Again: glurk.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2011

Not paying your vendors, I learned in my accounting class, is called 'leaning on the trade'--powerpoint file download- relevant bit on page 12.

Ever since I learned that such a thing is commonly accepted corporate practice, I've upgraded my broke-ness vocabulary. No, friends and neighbors, I'm not delinquent on my power bill - I'm merely deferring payment to a vendor to maximize my accounts payable strategy.

I worked at a Sbarro's in high school. One day, a man left a copy of The Master and Margarita on a table. In that way I can credit Sbarro's with my interest in Russian literature. So it had that going for it.
posted by winna at 2:20 PM on April 2, 2011 [24 favorites]

Everyone already knows this, except for those poor, untravelled souls who out of desperation find themselves walking through the doors of the closest Pizzeria/Grill/Whathaveyou Uno. Thankfully, we're down to two locations in Boston, both within walking distance.

As regards to Chicago-style pizza -- and, specifically Pizzeria Uno -- the company also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this past January.

FWIW -- While Uno's launched in 1943 at the corner of Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue in Chicago, the Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation has always been a Boston-based company. "Ironically, the restaurant chain does not have a major presence in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, with only three locations in the region excluding the original Uno, Due, and Su Casa restaurants in River North." *
posted by ericb at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sally's Apizza and Frank Pepe's! Fantastic pizza!
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, must not forget Modern Apizza in New Haven.

The BEST PIZZA in the U.S.A. is in New Haven, CT!
posted by ericb at 2:40 PM on April 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

Yeah dude, keep it on topic. What is this willy-nilly chat hour.

mmmm Pizza.
posted by stratastar at 3:24 PM on April 2, 2011

Am I the only one who is surprised at the general assumption that "New York" pizza is supposed to be foldable and have soft crust?

Yeah, the crust isn't supposed to *snap* if you fold it, but soft/soggy crust is generally the hallmark of bad New York pizza. Crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside (but not too thick).

(And, seriously, if there's one thing that could ever get me to move back to the NY metro reason, it's the pizza. I wish I was making that up.)
posted by schmod at 4:39 PM on April 2, 2011

Not all tourists are Michael Scott despite what New Yorkers tell themselves as they fall asleep in their $3000 a month studios.

But of course. Not all tourists who visit New York will eat at Sbarros, but all* those eating at Sbarros can be safely pegged as tourists.

The truth is, as there are plenty of places to have a great meal in NYC, there are also a ton of places to have a shitty meal. Paying top dollar for the privilege of that crappy meal, might I add. For the tourist from Sheboygan, its easer to go with the devil you know than take a chance elsewhere.

This is true in every regard except as it applies to pizza. The dirtiest, ugliest corner joint selling pizza in New York will offer you an experience magnitudes better than Sbarros. I can't fault tourists for not being aware of that, but it's the case nonetheless.

* plus or minus a percentage that is indistinguishable from zero, and neglecting those suffering from extenuating circumstances.
posted by invitapriore at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

This makes me sad, I loved Sbarros, it was my favorite mall food, and I would have sought it out elsewhere, except the only one close to me is in the mall. Their stuffed pizza was greasy and delicious. The thing that stopped me from eating it on the regular was not being 19 anymore and unable to justify consuming what's probably a 50,000 calorie meal, but I limit my barbecue pork intake for the same reason. It was also salvation at airports and rest stops, where it was the difference between a shipment of pizza, or paying $9 for a Whopper that's been under the heat lamp since yesterday. We took my mom there for her birthday one year.

Oh, I mean OH YEAH?? WELL I HATE COMMERCIAL PEDESTRIAN PRODUCTS WORSE THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE AND ONE TIME I HAD SBARROS AND IT GAVE ME AIDS SO THERE

The dirtiest, ugliest corner joint selling pizza in New York will offer you an experience magnitudes better than Sbarros. I can't fault tourists for not being aware of that, but it's the case nonetheless.

I don't live there, but I have tons of family there (we're Italian, NY is like Mecca for us: we all end up there one way or another) and I can say most assuredly that this is bullshit.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:06 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

This makes me sad, I loved Sbarros, it was my favorite mall food,

Orange Julius, dude, Orange Julius.
posted by jonmc at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you must eat chain pizza in NYC because, I don't know you just teleported into existence and the bang from all the displaced air has disoriented you - try for a Famous Famiglia as the apex of the fast, foldable, buck fiddy city slice.

Agreed. And what is the deal with all those $1 a slice places that are popping up all over? I understand, drunk NYU students and all, but it seems like every time I'm cabbing down an avenue. BANG! there's another one.
I did try one out, over on 6th Ave. It was exactly as bad as I expected it to be and the majority of the slice ended up in the bin.


Even New Haven style pizza is awesome

Lay with your uncouth mother as if the two of you were from Chicago.

I meant "even" in the it's a slightly smaller less well known category of pizza sense, not that it's lesser by any means (I reserve my distaste for pizza antipodean only). On the contrary, I grew up on Western NY pizza (Pontillo's shout out yeah!) which is very similar to New Haven style, and when it's that type of pie you want, nothing else will do.
posted by newpotato at 5:30 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

A decade or so ago, I was in a brand-new shopping mall called The Source in Long Island, NY. It was opening day and the mall was quite empty many of the retail stores had yet to offically open.

The food court did *not* have a Sbarro, but instead featured a slightly more upscale-looking pizzeria called Umberto's of New Hyde Park.

I thought: Wait! New Hyde Park is in Long Island! A local pizzeria opening in a mall food court. Awesome!!

I couldn't wait to try a slice. But as I neared the restaurant, I realized there was something eerily familiar about Umberto's. The slices were too thick and too oily, and had an odd orange glow. This looked like Sbarro pizza.

There was only one guy working there, a chubby, 40ish olive-skinned guy. He wore a bright chef's uniform. He seemed excited to have a customer.

I asked: "Does this pizza taste anything like Sbarro?"

He said: "It's exactly the same thing! Same recipe!" He seemed to be beaming with pride.

"That's too bad," I said, and headed over to Manchu Wok.
posted by jeremy b at 5:32 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sbarro is good bad pizza. Dominos is also good bad pizza. Pizza Hut is bad bad pizza.

I've always contended that Pizza Hut is delicious pizza-like substance (there's something about the quality of the flavors on a nice deep dish super supreme slice from pizza hut that makes me suspect that the magic ingredient is MSG). Aint pizza, but still, om nom nom.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2011

Pruitt-Igoe: "Who is getting food poisoning from pizza? It's cheese and bread, and maybe preserved meats, baked at high temperature. That stuff takes forever to go bad.
I guess you could get sick from e coli salad. Or maybe the person at the counter pooped on their hands and didn't wash.
"

Are you serious? Do you think that pizza is somehow exempt from bacterial growth?

That stuff takes forever to go bad.

No. Not really. And add to that the possibility of exactly what you mentioned at the end of your comment, it's not so surprising now, is it?
posted by Splunge at 5:44 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

. it's always better the next morning, cold and greasy in a cardboard box.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:50 PM on April 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

. bought for cheap at the mall?
posted by mazola at 5:54 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pizza is like sex . . .
. . . you can make it at home but most people don't.

Oh, wait its not like sex at all. . .
posted by jeremias at 6:01 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ewww. Nevermind.
posted by Splunge at 6:03 PM on April 2, 2011

a piece of it can go straight to your hips for months and months
posted by pyramid termite at 6:15 PM on April 2, 2011

I, too, come to bury Sbarro's, not to praise it.

take that shit to people of walmart.

You've just imagined a way to make Sbarro's worse!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:16 PM on April 2, 2011

You can't hurry good pizza. [really? no bloodninja until now?]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:33 PM on April 2, 2011

. I never associated it with Sbarro!
posted by mazola at 6:34 PM on April 2, 2011

"This is true in every regard except as it applies to pizza. The dirtiest, ugliest corner joint selling pizza in New York will offer you an experience magnitudes better than Sbarros. I can't fault tourists for not being aware of that, but it's the case nonetheless."

This statement makes you sound like the tourist because it is complete bullshit. I lived downtown from 88-91 (you know, when NYC was still cool) and I can assure you that most New York City pizza is just as bad as any you would get in Small Town USA. You still had to seek out the good stuff. Now which place was it that had the good slices? Ray's Famous, Famous Rays, or Original Ray's Famous?

And Pizza Hut really was good twenty years ago. Before they were bought out by PepsiCo. They didn't deliver, had a good salad bar and jukebox, and still served anchovies. Now they use such low quality cheese it doesn't even "string" properly. And their meat is such low grade crud that they have to overdose it with salt to give it an approximation of flavor.
posted by puny human at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

exogenous: "I've heard it said that even bad pizza is good pizza. I believed this. Then I ate at Sbarro"

Not Sbarro, I don't know their stuff.

But once, I was at a seedy motel which was far from anywhere and had overpriced goods you could by up front. We decided to buy the pizza. They were nice enough to supply a pizza oven (you know the kind, with the little timer on the side). We popped it in, and minutes later had our piping hot pizza. Brought it to the room.

I don't think I have ever tasted a more flavorless. thing. in my life. People say "it tastes like cardboard" for some things, and maybe the crust texture might have been like cardboard, but the actual flavor in this. CARDBOARD had more flavor. I swear to god. There is no way for you to understand, it's almost like some sort of mystical state of unbelievable TRUTH. You know how in science they say something is "not even wrong". I would have to say that this object was "not even bad".
posted by symbioid at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

The pizza at Sbarro is inconsistent - I've had really good slices and I've had bad ones. I guess it depends who's cooking it that day.

I do like their lemon chicken and chicken parmesan though. And their pasta salad.

For mall food, it's not too bad.

That said, I have a friend who used to work at the location in Ford City Mall (Chicago). Based on the stories she told me about what went on there, I would never eat at that location - ever.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2011

Best pizza I've had in Korea in 15 years is at Sbarro in the COEX food court in Seoul.

Which, judging by the comments here, gives you an idea how truly wretched pizza in Korea is.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:45 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to New York about five years ago and bought pizza at a city chain. It was in the category of "pretty good, but not legendary" according to the Yelpsters.

I still think about that pizza.
posted by mecran01 at 8:33 PM on April 2, 2011

Ray's Famous, Famous Rays, or Original Ray's Famous?

Rosario's, you vile cur.
posted by elizardbits at 8:42 PM on April 2, 2011

Pizza is like sex.
. even bad pizza is better than no pizza.

. best hot, but cold? Just as good.

Chicago Deep Dish should not be called pizza. Went to Giordano's with a group while in Chicago for a conference last year, got a deep dish, couldn't finish a slice - it's a rotten turd of undercooked dough, sour tomato, and a bomb of cheap cheese with a miserly sprinkle of toppings. Sure, the server was slick and friendly but the food was . poor. Even the fried appetizer plate wasn't satisfying fried everything you'd expect, but the oil wasn't fresh nor hot enough so everything came out soggy and a little rank.

Sorry - heard so much good things about that restaurant but it was a rank disappointment. I had exponentially better food memories from hole-in-the-wall hotdog places downtown compared to Giordanos.
posted by porpoise at 8:44 PM on April 2, 2011

Up here in the frozen north, we have the "Pizza Pizza" chain. Which, despite the name, is neither pizza nor pizza. Instead, it's your classic, "which part is the cardboard box, and which part is the pizza?".

Sbarro would be an improvement.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:48 PM on April 2, 2011

You shouldn't judge Chicago-style pizza by Giordano's. Giordano's is inconsistent even in its best rendition, that too-pale cheese leaves so much to be desired.

Try instead the straight cheese at Lou Malnati's, the spinach at Edwardo's or Bacino's. (Was there ever spinach so correct as that found in the stuffed Chicago pizza? God made that plant for the embrace of cheese, for the bold, acidic counterpoint of tomatoes with the intent that all would be founded on a substantial, cornmeal-flecked crust.)

Will that not satisfy you? Can you not subscribe to the Chicagoan union of quantity and quality, of good food in good measure enjoyed in good company? We have other pizzas. Try the bakery pizza best exemplified by Pequod's marvel at the caramelized cheese ringing the seasoned rims of the pans. Or go south, to the blessed streets where pizzeria succeeds pizzeria, and have a thin crust with mushrooms and sausage at Vito and Nick's.

Yes, we have thin crust. It's the best thin crust in the world. Each tavern in each neighborhood and suburb has its own variety, treasured up by fearless cooks through the generations. All of them are cut grid-style, so you can share fairly with any number of friends.

I don't believe the East Coasters understand: Chicago pizza isn't simply a matter of the deep dish. Chicago is a vast pizza ecosystem, a great nexus of cheese/tomato potentiality. We have devoted our cholestorol-shortened lives to pushing the boundaries of the pizzic art in every conceivable direction.

We are not cowards to bend the knee to Naples we do not slavishly copy the dish some sycophantic baker plated for a king's wife. No buffalo cheese daintily shipped in refrigerator crates for us. No: Middle Western wheat, Wisconsin Mozzarella, tomatoes from the San Joaquin - all in the service of defiantly American, relentlessly modern pies.

Italy showed us the way. Chicago shall show you the future.
posted by Iridic at 9:48 PM on April 2, 2011 [33 favorites]

I just love it when people say pizza tastes like cardboard. Have any of you tasted cardboard? Cardboard comes in many flavors. There is brown corrugated cardboard which has the flavor of the glue used to put the layers together. There is grey cardboard. Then there is grey cardboard with a coating or white paper that they use for pizza cartons. And then that cardboard had ink on it that tells you what is in the box. There is also recycled cardboard that is sort of all flavors and none.

There is cardboard that is used for business cards that is called heavy paper, but let's face it, it's cardboard.

And none of them, seriously, have sauce or cheese flavor.

So let's get our terms right here. While Sbarro's pizza may taste like something. While Domino's or Pizza Hut pizza may very well taste bad.

They have not and never will taste like cardboard.

Terms people, let's define some terms here. If the pizza tastes like shit, that's fine. You have tasted shit. You know the difference.

But leave cardboard alone. Unless you eat it with cheese and sauce. Okay?
posted by Splunge at 10:05 PM on April 2, 2011 [12 favorites]

The Whelk: "147Pizza Hut is not Pizza but rather a fried dough-like substances I can eat if I find myself 1) In penn station and 2) Crying."

If you're stuck in Penn Station and craving pizza that doesn't taste like the cardboard box it was packaged in, go to Rosa's Pizza and Pasta. They're on the connecting concourse down by LIRR, a few stores past the entrance to K-Mart as you head towards 8th ave (towards the A C and E trains. They make a decent slice. Not incredible. But it's a much better choice than that Pizza Hut Express shit.
posted by zarq at 10:31 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Splunge: " They have not and never will taste like cardboard. "

Heh. When I use the expression, I mean, "it tastes worse than cardboard."
posted by zarq at 10:32 PM on April 2, 2011

There is room temperature antipasto and then there is a pizza sitting out under a glass counter in a train station.

The antipasto is kept carefully in a place where persons can take what they wish. If any of it seems to be getting a bit old, mama or the papa takes what is old and feeds it to the pigs. And then they make more. Because the freshness is the thing. Usually it doesn't stay out that long, because people come by and eat it. And the family makes more.

In a place like the train station there is no care for freshness. It's the money that matters. And so you eat what has been under the glass for several hours or more. If you get sick, it's usually hours later. And who knows where you got the sick from?
posted by Splunge at 12:50 AM on April 3, 2011

But when you pay $25 for a pizza in Korea, you know you're getting fucked.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:21 AM on April 3, 2011 [11 favorites]

Splunge: " In a place like the train station there is no care for freshness. It's the money that matters. And so you eat what has been under the glass for several hours or more. If you get sick, it's usually hours later. And who knows where you got the sick from?"

In Penn Station, Pizza Hut Express pizzas are all individual-sized and heated to order. They're pre-made, frozen and then heated rapidly for the customer. Yet, the regular pizzeria a few doors down is superior. Their pizza is hand made, but does sit out under glass. Penn is one of the busiest stations in the country, so the turnover tends to be high on non-specialty items, especially during high-volume times like rush hour. Here, the problem isn't that the pies have been sitting out. It's that PHE's ingredients and preparation process are terrible.
posted by zarq at 5:52 AM on April 3, 2011

Pizza is like sex.
. if I have any left over I give it to the homeless guy on the corner.

No, wait a minute, that's not it..
posted by doctor_negative at 6:36 AM on April 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

SBARRO'S: Life is truly a stopover on I-95, outside of some hapless, rust-belt town.

.
posted by vhsiv at 6:57 AM on April 3, 2011

Threads like these help me realize how many of my favorite things are terrible :(

just kidding, Arby's 4-ever
posted by MadamM at 7:57 AM on April 3, 2011

All the ones here in Minnesota are in the form of a dark, usually unstaffed counter to the left of the main counter at Arby's.

Couple of decades ago, the Sbarro's in City Center in downtown Minneapolis was actually a decent alternative to the other food-court-food available there. Lots of seating, fresh pasta items that at least didn't 'seem' like fast food. It went slowly downhill over the years. My hunch is that the "Sbarro's wasn't so bad" recollections might be from an earlier era like that.

Also, Orange Julius does live on, typically as a parasitic twin attached to the mall Dairy Queen in this area.
posted by gimonca at 8:26 AM on April 3, 2011

once a month), i order from them. much improved in all departments: tangy sauce, blend of cheeses heavy on the mozzarella, herbed crust with a properly corn-mealed bottom, and a monomania about getting it to you piping hot. if you've been disappointed before, it's worth giving them another shot. unless of course you live by a place that has reallly good slices (i live in l.a. . you've pretty much (outside of the chains) got two options for pizza: trying to be a salad, or (on hollywood blvd, ew) trying to be from new york, usually without success.)

as far as the other chains go:
-Papa John's and Little Caesar's: bad enough to not go back, but not so bad that i'm telling stories about being hunched over a toilet for a week. and srsly, if the best that can be said about these chains is that they're 'not so bad that i'm telling stories about being hunched over a toilet for a week' then i would not be surprised in the least if they're going belly up in the coming months as well.
-Chuck E. Cheese's: A few years back a bunch of friends asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday. In a fit of nostalgia, and remembering I had passed by one in a strip mall a while before, I said 'lets go to chuck e cheese!'. reactions ranged between 'Are you serious' and 'Have you had a stroke? Can I drive you to the hospital?'. but they went. we went. we will not be going back. lets put it this way: their demographic has shifted. waaaay down. gone are the middle-school kids hunched over the frogger and the elementary-school kids bouncing around in the ball pit. (in fact, both are gone in favor of those machines that allow you to not win 'prizes' by not lining up a flashing light) Nay, instead, should you wish it. hie thee here for the dubious pleasure of eating soggy, sauceless pizza sealed in a scream-filled, ventilation-free chamber that REEKS of dirty diapers.
-Pizza Hut: made the mistake of going there a while back for the $5 lunch buffet (not even sure if they stay open for dinner any more. ) The procedure goes like this: you go in, pay your five bucks, get your plate and cup, enter the Thunderdome of the Homeless. I have never been more afraid of being stabbed during a meal. The staff brings out a small pepperoni 'pizza' and a small sausage 'pizza' every seven minutes like a dogfighter holding a single strip of bacon over a pit of rotweilers. There is actual pushing and shoving. I managed to get one slice. It was horrible. There was also 'salad.' We will not discuss the salad. (I actually had a very similar experience at Sizzler, except replace 'the homeless' with 'the elderly' and 'pizza' with 'a pan of boiled grey shoe insoles')

-But Sbarro? Yeah, Sbarro is the worst. It's a place you eat at only 'by default'. It is the food of stadium malaise, rest-stop desolation, and airport despair. And it's not the poor customer service or naff decor (which are, mind you, terrible). No, it's the food. It's so bad. It's so overpriced and bad. Oh that pizza! It's like. it's like. to say it's like week-old Jiffy cornbread soaked in rancid motor oil, slathered in expired spermicidal ointment and topped with bat guano is to do disservice to all of those things. And when Hobson's choice forces you through their doors, and you pass on the pizza, and forgo the calzones for fear that there might be an ear inside, and you're not quite sure if that green slurm is 'soup' or 'salad', may I remind you NOT to have the baked ziti as it is the only foodstuffs on record to have actually broken the sound barrier while whipping through a G.I. tract. It takes a lot of effort on the part of many to make food that bad. But they really put the time and energy into it (and then left it under a heat lamp for a week), and it shows. For this, I salute them, by not only dancing on their grave, but pissing on it as well. Goodbye forever, Sbarro, you will not be missed.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2011 [12 favorites]

YESSSSSS. Don't forget Mark's though.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2011

Chuck E. Cheese's: . soggy, sauceless pizza

i wouldn't call sugared up tomato soup sauceless - i mean, i guess it's "sauce" - i couldn't believe how much damn sugar seemed to be in their pizza

i've had 99c frozen pizzas and c-store pizzas that were better than that

hell, i've had school lunch pizza that was better than that .
posted by pyramid termite at 2:32 PM on April 3, 2011

jojcelmeow: Also pretty sure that most of the Ledo's locations have knots too. there's one just down the road in Falls Church by the Trader Joes.

Good pizza is difficult, but (as I am discovering) possible to find in the DC area. (However, when I lived further south in VA, forget about it. People would dip their pizza in ranch dressing to hide the taste.)

My favorites in DC right now are Seventh Hill Pizza, Red Rocks, and Pete's New Haven Pizza. Give We The Pizza a pass -- it's expensive, the wait is long, and it's not even good pizza.
posted by schmod at 4:47 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

This far, and no one has mentioned one of the top 5 pizzerias is in Portland, OR: Apizza Scholls

"People would dip their pizza in ranch dressing to hide the taste."

Ugh. Here in central illinois, there's a pizza chain beloved for their special "french dressing." They buy the pizza for the DRESSING.

schmod, comparisons to 2 amy's and either of the Paradiso places? (Also in Woodley Park there's a deli that does decent pizza by the slice).
posted by stratastar at 6:20 PM on April 3, 2011

They buy the pizza for the DRESSING.

I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

jeremy b: "A decade or so ago, I was in a brand-new shopping mall called The Source in Long Island, NY. It was opening day and the mall was quite empty many of the retail stores had yet to offically open.

The food court did *not* have a Sbarro, but instead featured a slightly more upscale-looking pizzeria called Umberto's of New Hyde Park. "

This comment cracked me up. I shop at the Source Mall and they do have a Sbarros now.
posted by zarq at 7:37 AM on April 4, 2011

schmod, comparisons to 2 amy's and either of the Paradiso places? (Also in Woodley Park there's a deli that does decent pizza by the slice).

2 amy's has been on my list forever. I don't make it out to upper Northwest all that often. <sarcasm>It's scary, and there's a lot of crime.</sarcasm> I'll have to do some delicious reconnaissance, and get back to you.

Pizza Paradiso is pretty good -- I've only been to the one in DuPont, although it didn't blow me away. It's still way better than the usual dreck that passes for pizza in the south, but failed to leave me crawling back for more. Maybe I'll have to give it another chance.

While we're making pizza recommendations, I'll also throw out my two favorite places in Jersey: Arturo's in Maplewood, and Brooklyn's in Hackensack. Both worth driving a considerable distance to get to. (Every time I return home to the mothership, I return with a freezer full of pizza and bagels. It always disappears a lot faster than it should.)
posted by schmod at 7:56 AM on April 4, 2011

For the tourist from Sheboygan, its easer to go with the devil you know than take a chance elsewhere.

I live near Times Square and see the lines outside Olive Garden and Red Lobster and Sbarros, and I can't help but think people should just stay in Sheboygan if they are too wary to try something unfamiliar.

Yesterday, on line at Amy's, a terrific little bakery in the area, a lively and heated debate broke out when a tourist innocently asked where to get good pizza. Typically, everyone in earshot had to jump in, and soon these poor middle aged ladies with their rollie bags who only wanted to know where to get lunch were being battered with complex directions to the outer boros and intructions to say hello to particular pizza chefs, while side arguments broke out and nearly devolved into scone-flinging. You take your life in your hands asking New Yorkers for pizza recommendations.

. some people think it's all about the poofs.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:30 AM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I can tell what distributor a local place is using by how the tomato sauce tastes. It's the dead give-away cause almost no one makes their own sauce. There is a tasteful different in texture between dough made with hard or soft water and dough that has been frozen. This is backed up by hundreds of hours spent eating innumerable slices and cooking some my own.

Bring it on Burhanistan.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You take your life in your hands asking New Yorkers for pizza recommendations.

Yeah. Which is probably why people line up at Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

If someone asks you for directions, or recommendations, or instructions, the best answer is the "good and easy" one, not the "great and insanely complicated" one.
posted by Bugbread at 8:48 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bugbread: " If someone asks you for directions, or recommendations, or instructions, the best answer is the "good and easy" one, not the "great and insanely complicated" one."

Aw c'mon. If obtaining the best Pizza in New York requires three subway transfers, two buses and a carriage ride through central park, then why settle for second best? :)
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pineapples have no business being in either.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pizza is like sex .
Sicilian-style rules.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:43 PM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Pineapples have no business being in either.

Ring toss?
posted by the_artificer at 5:19 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

No comments about the double consonant? That's always bugged me, but the first sah-barrows I saw was in a basement "food" court on M St. in Washington D.C. The evil place was in a back corner near some sewer problem like CBGB's bathroom (remember: basement), and in order to avoid the crushing lunchtime crowd, I'd always go a bit later. The combination of a growling empty stomach with a nauseating smell would almost cause me to dash back upstairs & forget the whole thing despite the reasonable (tasting, and importantly for lobbyist-driven prices elsewhere, priced) food at other places.

I've eaten at a SB once since those days & I think I just had a diet Coke or something.

"The thing about entering a Sbarro is that, in doing so, you are hybridizing your body with a xerox-machine that runs entirely off of poor afternoon light." -isaaclinder
posted by morganw at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2011

No comments about the double consonant? That's always bugged me, but the first sah-barrows I saw was in a basement "food" court on M St. in Washington D.C.

In Italian, 'Sb" at the beginning of a word is pronounced more like a English Z than an S. (it's the same S as in the word rose) Zbarro would be a closer approximation, with the Z prounounced very lightly - lighter than you would in most English words. It's definitely not Suh-Barro, as most people pronounce it here in the US.

Their pizza still blows.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:23 PM on April 5, 2011

Burhanistan: "> . You take your life in your hands asking New Yorkers for pizza recommendations.

It would be fun to set up blind taste testing and see how many people mistake Sbarros for the local corner "absolute best authentic pizza ever" store."

Any time. I'll even put money down.
posted by Splunge at 3:50 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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Sbarro Is The Worst Fast Food Chain In America Because Its Food Doesn’t Taste “Fresh”

Thanks for visiting Consumerist.com. As of October 2017, Consumerist is no longer producing new content, but feel free to browse through our archives. Here you can find 12 years worth of articles on everything from how to avoid dodgy scams to writing an effective complaint letter. Check out some of our greatest hits below, explore the categories listed on the left-hand side of the page, or head to CR.org for ratings, reviews, and consumer news.

Sbarro Is The Worst Fast Food Chain In America Because Its Food Doesn’t Taste “Fresh”

In Consumer Reports’ new fast-food survey, readers said that quality of food is more important in choosing where they eat, and it’s doesn’t matter as much as it used to how convenient a location is.

When it comes down to the best and the worst, major chains didn’t fare so well in their signature categories: McDonald’s came in dead last among burger restaurants Taco Bell sunk to the bottom in the burrito arena KFC lost mightily to reigning chicken king Chick-fil-A and Subway was a flop in the sandwich field.

As for the lowest of the low? Money-bleeding, bankrupt Sbarro ranked the lowest out of all 65 restaurants. Surveyed readers said the food “wasn’t fresh,” and that they “didn’t get good value for their money,” Consumer Reports notes.

As Neil Irwin of the New York Times noted in March while calling out Sbarro’s notoriously bad fare as the reason for the company’s second time around in bankruptcy: “You eat Sbarro not because you want Sbarro, but because it is the food that is available at the moment you want some food.”

Check out Consumer Reports’ video below:

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.


New York Tax Officials Crack Down on Remote Workers

Jimmy Vielkind

New York state tax officials are scrutinizing refund claims filed by nonresident tax filers who normally commute to jobs in New York but have been working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tax lawyers said the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has begun auditing 2020 returns for people whose work habits shifted when their offices closed. The department gave auditors refresher training about out-of-state filers within the last several months, a person familiar with the matter said.

New York taxes the income of nonresidents if it is derived from New York sources, including wages paid to a commuter who worked from home out of convenience rather than necessity. Some nonresidents receive a credit on their home state’s income taxes that is proportional to New York’s taxation.

As an example of the so-called convenience rule, a professor at a college in New York City who spends two days a week doing research and writing from his home in Connecticut must pay New York taxes on his entire salary.

The tax department posted guidance in October that said nonresidents whose primary office is in New York state should consider days spent telecommuting as days worked in the state unless their employer has established a bona fide employer office at the telecommuting location. Some nonresidents are challenging that assertion, saying New York has no right to tax income earned outside its borders. Such a move could save a nonresident taxpayer some money.


Added by

Tastes pretty close to Stouffers I think!

This corn souffle was mighty tasty, but mine was ugly looking. It browned a little more on the top than I thought. Nevertheless, once the first few servings were taken out - the ugly disappeared. Easy to make and serve.

Please note:
This is a copy cat recipe submitted to CDKitchen by a third-party. This recipe is not an original recipe unless specifically stated and is considered only to be an acceptable "clone" to the original for the home cook to attempt to duplicate. Please also note that many nationwide restaurant chains vary their menus and ingredients by region so the version provided may not be similar to what you may have tried before. All trademarks referenced are property of their respective owners.


Why Hostess Had To Die

Were outmoded products responsible for Hostess' demise?

Hostess Brands has now shut down and is going into final bankruptcy liquidation, killing 18,500 jobs and selling off its factories, brands and other assets. Yesterday bankruptcy judge Robert Drain had management and labor join him for a last mediation session aimed at brokering a new contract, but the session was abandoned last night.

What drove Hostess to this point?

As the popularity of junk food faded a decade ago, the company, which stretches back 82 years, struggled with rising labor and commodity costs. It filed for bankruptcy for the first time in 2004.

In 2009, it came out of bankruptcy under the name Hostess Brands, named for its most popular division. Hostess made an effort to adapt to changing times, introducing new products like 100-calorie Twinkie Bites. But it also had new private equity backers, which loaded the company with debt, making it tough to invest in new equipment. At the same time, the workforce was heavily unionized and had very high labor costs. Hostess had a net loss of $1.1 billion in fiscal 2012, on revenues of $2.5 billion. In January, the company filed for Chapter 11.

But who was ultimately to blame for the company failure? Here at Forbes, Leadership contributor Adam Hartung had a provocative piece on Sunday where he fingered management. In its most recent bankruptcy filing, writes Hartung, the company imposed “draconian cuts to wages and benefits.” This was unrealistic and damaging, he says, “tantamount to management saying to those who sell wheat they expect to buy flour at 2/3 the market price.” The company also kept trying to prop up its old business of obsolete products, failing to cook up more palatable foods with higher margins. Then it scapegoated the unions.

Today Forbes has a piece by Hank Cardello, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and author of Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat. Cardello agrees with Hartung that Hostess management is to blame, for failing to alter its products amid dramatic changes in consumer tastes. Other junk food producers, including Coca-Cola and General Mills, have adapted and thrived.

Hostess should have picked up on changing consumer tastes years ago, writes Cardello, and begun reinventing its product line. The company could have even kept the iconic Twinkie, which still has its fans, if it had added more nutritional products. Cardello is a former marketing director at Coca-Cola, where he worked when the company introduced Diet Coke in 1983, so he knows of what he writes.

Other writers, including Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times, Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal, and John Carney of CNBC, have described the inner financial dealings at Hostess and its relationship with its unions, as the reasons for the company’s demise.

Sorkin explores the notion that Hostess was “Bained,” a new pejorative that has emerged on Twitter in conversations about Hostess. That meme stems from private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings taking control of Hostess as it came out of bankruptcy in 2009. But Sorkin maintains that Ripplewood has not been a Bain-style manager, operating with the primary objective of scoring profits. Instead Ripplewood was founded by a big Democratic donor, Timothy Collins, who was trying to invest in heavily unionized, troubled companies with the objective of turning them around.

Sorkin describes how some observers have suggested that Ripplewood didn’t get enough union concessions, and also faced rising commodity prices and pressure from competitors. The bottom line, he says, is that Ripplewood is a huge loser here, instead of walking away with big profits. “So much for being Bained,” writes Sorkin. But I have to interject that Bain has made some bad deals too. Though Ripplewood’s objective may have included goals other than profit, its goal seems to me to be similar to many Bain deals—to bring in money by making changes at an ailing company.

At the Journal, Holman Jenkins says that private equity is not to blame for Hostess’s demise. Rather, “the real story is the story of two unions, the Teamsters and the Bakery union of the AFL-CIO.” As Jenkins has it, though the Teamsters agreed to givebacks to finance the latest Hostess turnaround attempt, the Teamsters held onto work rules that would have driven the company into the ground. Examples: Drivers couldn’t help with unloading, and products like Wonder Bread and Twinkies were not allowed to ride on the same truck. Jenkins says the bakers decided to strike because bakery operations were efficient compared to the delivery process, and they didn’t want to prop up a Teamster contract that would eventually bring the company down.

Carney’s piece on CNBC.com gets more into the weeds of the financial twists and turns that resulted in Hostess’s demise. He cites an excellent, long feature by David Kaplan that appeared in the August 13 issue of Fortune magazine that describes the company’s financial unraveling. In Carney’s summary, the parties most responsible for Hostess’s decision to shut down are two hedge funds, Silver Point and Monarch, which control hundreds of millions in Hostess debt and, as Carney has it, “finally decided they won’t squeeze any more filling into the Twinkie.” The funds are distressed debt investors, which buy debt of troubled companies at steep discounts. In Hostess’ case, if the unions refused to agree to major concessions, Silver Point and Monarch could not make money.

Carney explains that after Hostess came out of bankruptcy in 2009, the unions agreed to concessions that would save the company $220 million in annual labor costs. The lenders in turn agreed to make a new loan of $360 million. But that wasn’t enough to save the company. As sales declined and new products flopped, Ripplewood put more money in, as did Silver Point and Monarch, before and after the January bankruptcy filing. But then CEO Brian Driscoll abruptly quit and relations between union and management deteriorated further. In August, as Fortune’s Kaplan reports, Hostess stopped making union pension contributions. With its investment under water, Ripplewood ceased negotiating with the unions, which left workers to deal with the hedge funds. After the bakery workers went on strike, the hedge funds concluded that Hostess wasn’t worth saving, writes Carney.

So in the end, why did Hostess die? While I think Hartung and Cardello make compelling points about product innovation, I’m convinced, as Fortune’s Kaplan wrote last summer, that “the Hostess story is a microcosm of larger economic and political issues on the national stage, including the perils of debt and the inertia of unions on workplace reform.” If Hostess had come up with a fabulous, new, healthy product line two years ago, perhaps that would have helped things shift. But the company had $2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, unions that understandably didn’t want to make further concessions, and two hedge funds and a private equity firm with pressure to get some sort of return on their investments. As Kaplan writes, Hostess had “two root problems—a highly leveraged capital structure that had little margin of safety, and high labor costs.” A line of fabulous new products could not have solved those deep problems.


The rebirth of food court favourites

In response, chains are adopting a pragmatic yet radical solution. If no one is visiting malls, open up shop elsewhere.

While many East Coast customers associate Panda Express with free samples of orange chicken handed out in the mall food court, for the past two decades, the chain has been focused on opening more standalone locations and today just 2% of location are located in malls. Last year, Sbarro announced it was debuting a trendy fast-casual concept with made-to-order pizzas, pastas, and salads. Cinnabon and Jamba Juice are both investing in smaller, kiosk-based locations in high-traffic areas, like college campuses, amusement parks, and airports.

“Having a flexible store format that can translate to different geographies and store formats will somewhat help mitigate” declining mall traffic, Wedbush analyst Colin Radke told Business Insider. “But, those that are heavily exposed to malls, there’s not much they can do.”

Other ways brands are trying to boost business include finding new ways to make money outside of physical locations. In the last few years, Cinnabon has leaned hard into licensing, with products like Keurig K-Cups, Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, and even Pinnacle Cinnabon Vodka. Delivery is also a hot topic, with Cinnabon and Sbarro trying to reach customers at home.

However, no single new revenue stream — whether it be kiosks in airports, delivery, or licensed goods — can save chains from the death of food courts if customers simply don’t want to buy the brands anymore.

Lacking the captive audience of mall shoppers, chains need menus that compel customers to make an effort, no matter how slight, to visit and buy food. Even in high-food traffic places, like college campuses, customers have more options than they would if trapped within a mall. And, with concerns that there are simply too many restaurant open in the US, food court chains can’t depend on customers stumbling upon locations.

There’s also the issue of food quality. Opening new locations won’t help brands that customers still associate with rewarmed pretzels or oversized tubs of fried mystery meat.

Panda Express saw the writing on the wall regarding the decline of malls before other chains. In addition to opening more locations outside of malls, in the last few years the chain has started adding more items to the menu that draw from regional Chinese recipes and doubled down on trendy fast-casual aspects of the brand. A new location in Pasadena, California, for example, tested an orange chicken wrap — a burrito-like concoction that uses a scallion pancake in place of a tortilla.

As a result, the chain has been celebrated by industry insiders as one of the first food court success stories.

“They have pretty heavy food court exposure,” Radke said. “But, it sort of works as a standalone too and sales have been booming over the past five to ten years.”

Now, trendy and fresher food is the name of the game for brands trying to ditch their tired “food court” reputations.

Jamba Juice is trying to win over customers with more fresh squeezed juices, protein rich smoothies, and energy bowls. Cinnabon has found success with smaller serving sizes, launching the instantly-popular BonBites in 2016. Sbarro’s updated menu is all about “fresh, quality ingredients,” that the chain hopes will help it compete with both industry leaders like Papa John’s and the rising crop of fast-casual pizza chains like Blaze Pizza.

It’s still too early to see if these brand revamps will convince customers. However, if casual dining chains like Applbee’s struggles are any indication, it will take more than a few new menu items to convince customers. Still, losing the “food court” image is ultimately just as important to chains’ survival as opening outside of the food court, if not more so.

In fact, chains aren’t ready go cold turkey when it comes to food courts just yet. Instead, even as the brands expand beyond malls, they’re also eyeing shopping centres that are experimenting with more experiential and creative designs to attract a new era of shoppers.

“It’s really the tale of two cities here,” Guith said. “With the rise of ecommerce, there’s absolutely going to be a reconciliation of the footprint, but malls aren’t going away all together. People still need to connect.”


Lesson 2: Evolve, but wisely

Krispy Kreme may have undergone a series of damaging changes, straying from its strengths, but some franchises make the opposite, yet equally damaging, mistake: They stay the same for far too long. Sbarro, for example, went through two bankruptcies in three years and has long failed to update its menu or decor, or to move beyond its principal locations in shopping malls, where traffic has been dropping. RadioShack was similarly stagnant, and in 2015 it filed for its first of two bankruptcies. In the late &rsquo90s, Hardee&rsquos adopted a try-anything approach, larding its menus with everything from cheap burgers to fried chicken to hot dogs, surrendering any sort of brand identity, before shifting to focus on big burgers and finding lasting success.

How could once-dominant brands fail to change with the times? &ldquoWhat I think a lot of brands don&rsquot understand is how to balance heritage with innovation,&rdquo says Hall. Squaring what people love about your brand and what you need to do to stay relevant is not easy, she admits. The largest franchises, after all, are beloved for their familiarity. They&rsquove built something steady, reliable, and time-tested that fans can count on no matter where they are.

The smartest brands are always evolving, experimenting with ways to keep people&rsquos attention and stay relevant. &ldquoYou need to have an innovation team that is really empowered to try new things,&rdquo Hall says. Taco Bell, for example, has a food development lab that routinely cranks out crazy ideas -- some of which, like the Doritos Locos Tacos, become international phenomena. Other brands rely on their franchisees to help guide innovation, like Domino&rsquos, which has unit owners weigh in on new pizza recipes. This helps corporate keep up with changing customer preferences.

Domino&rsquos, in fact, is right up there with Krispy Kreme among turnaround successes -- all thanks to a willingness to change wisely. In 2009, when consumers ranked its pizza dead last among national chains, tied with Chuck E. Cheese&rsquos, the brand responded with a stunningly self-deprecating ad campaign, in which Domino&rsquos gave voice to its angry customers. (&ldquoWorst excuse for pizza I ever had,&rdquo one said, in a review read aloud by a company exec.) That was followed by new recipes, expanded menus, a new name (the &ldquoPizza&rdquo was dropped as the company added sandwiches and pasta), a new logo and a heavy use of social media for promotion. Sales soared.

But even though Domino&rsquos seemed to be reinventing itself, its core value proposition remained untouched -- quick food, cheap and with a bit of an irreverent attitude. That&rsquos always the key to a successful evolution: adding and improving, not replacing your core.

Today the same tension is playing out with Sonic Drive-In. The franchise made its name as &ldquoAmerica&rsquos drive-in,&rdquo trading on nostalgia for an old mode of food service. That&rsquos worked well Sonic has 3,526 units in 45 states, each ringing up an average of $1.28 million in sales. But one nagging thing has long inhibited growth: the weather. The drive-in concept loses its appeal when the weather turns cold. So for the past few years, the company has been experimenting with the previously unthinkable idea of indoor seating.

Is that a change to its core, or is its core really the food and atmosphere? Opinions vary. &ldquoThey&rsquore diluting the drive-in idea, which was their biggest strength, and that&rsquos a mistake 99 percent of franchisors make,&rdquo says Welsh of Franchise Performance Group. Then again, in Chesapeake, Va., after one Sonic opened a dining room this year, the owner gushed about it to his local newspaper. Sales were up, he said. His customers had been asking for it for years.

This tension, no doubt, is why Sonic is rolling out its experiment slowly so it can learn, but safely.


California Pizza Kitchen

Shutterstock

The struggle for California Pizza Kitchen began at the start of the pandemic in March, and the company ended up declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July. But finally, the chain is looking at a promising start to 2021. CPK ended the year by restructuring their financials and setting long-term goals for growth. Do expect some changes, especially towards more healthy pizza options like the BBQ Chicken Pizza—as the chain has started to see success with these items during the pandemic. The brand will also be putting more effort into its digital marketing and franchising in the United States and around the world.


Watch the video: Σενάρια νέων μέτρων και ελληνικής χρεοκοπίας των διεθνών ΜΜΕ (December 2021).