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Pizza talk with Sbarro’s top executives

Sbarro Philippines recently invited members of the press to a breakfast-lunch session with the company’s top executives. Here are some of the highlights of the interesting discourse that transpired.
By Press Release |
Pizza talk with Sbarro’s top executives

Pampanga native Jaime ‘Jimmy’ Salvador joined Sbarro in the U.S. in 1972, working alongside the original owners Gennaro and Carmela ‘Mama’ Sbarro, imbibing their work ethics and business principles. Rising through the ranks, he eventually became the restaurant’s first Area Manager. In 1989, he returned to the Philippines to establish the Sbarro brand, opening the first branch at the Annex in SM North Edsa in 1990.

Today, Sbarro delights pizza-craving Pinoys through their 45 branches nationwide. The Salvador family continues to be at the helm, making sure that Sbarro Philippines remains true to Mama Sbarro’s legacy: “The commitment to good food, fresh ingredients, excellent service, and great value for money.”

Jimmy’s son, Fred, now president of Supersalute Foods Corporation, the master franchisor of Sbarro Philippines, knows why the restaurant is such a big hit in the country. “I think it’s because it’s authentic,” he declared during a simple gathering with some press people. “Some people claim to be from New York, some people claim to be Italian based but they’re not.”

He remembers how his father worked directly for the Sbarro family. In fact, their families were so close that Mr. and Mrs. Sbarro even wanted him to call them ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma.’ Salvador added: “And I would be ashamed if we let them down in this market, if we served a bad product. I’d really be disappointed. I think my Dad will come back and haunt me if we don’t try our best here.”

Talk with visiting Sbarro CEO

kram_and_salvador.JPGSbarro’s CEO and President J. David Karam recently visited the country to join the same press briefing. He said: “Sbarro is the sixth largest pizza chain in the world, and so our focus is increasingly selling and communicating the superior quality of pizza to consumers in all of our members.”

“At every one of our restaurants, we make the dough fresh every morning. We’re one of the only national restaurants with global pizza that uses 100% mozzarella cheese, the best cheese you can get, and shredded fresh every day. Nobody does that.” Sbarro also serves pasta dishes in the Italian tradition, like spaghetti, lasagna, and baked ziti.

The local Pinoy market has embraced Sbarro’s pizzas with open arms, so much so that the Philippine franchise team was recognized as Franchise Partner of the Year at the recently concluded Sbarro franchise conference held in the US. This award was earned based upon ‘superior operational execution and a commitment to developing the brand with new stores and really penetrating the markets that they serve in.’

But not one to rest on his laurels, Salvador reveals: “So far this year, we’ve opened a record number of stores. We’ve opened 10 stores, and we plan to open five more before the end of the year. One of these will be a self-contained delivery unit which will be at the Sea Residences in Pasay (MOA).”

Rounding the bend

baked_citi.JPGAfter experiencing a brief period beset by tough challenges, Sbarro emerges with a revitalized vision, a direction that hinges on passion and creative innovation. Looking at the glass half full, this short chapter in the company’s history paved the way for positive changes.

Karam detailed the progress that Sbarro is now experiencing after that momentary hiccup: “First, it has improved the balance sheet. The company has a very sound balance sheet and a very strong future, as it is now almost debt-free. Second, we increased the profitability dramatically by eliminating non-profitable stores. And third, by relocating our headquarters to Columbus, Ohio, which is rather a central hub for restaurant and retail companies, but with operational costs lower than the previous offices in New York, it allowed me to build a management team that has a lot of industry experience. And they can start to really put in place the strategies that will really position the brand for significant growth in the future.”

While this was happening in the US, Sbarro’s Filipino market was naturally concerned. But as the head office explained the situation properly, Salvador was able to address the issue. “A lot of guests would call the office,” he recalled. “But we assured them that this had nothing to do with us and that this will be over in a few months.”

“It was a tough chapter but we are glad we got through it quickly,” Karam reflected. “It was a very well planned filing and we are very fortunate that we have the support of our ownership, our franchise partners, as well as our vendors and landlords.”

Pizza with a passion

new_logo.JPGSbarro has developed a new logo design that is cleaner and more modern. The stores have also been reworked to be more open, allowing diners to watch how their pizza is made, and streamlining the flow of service. And of course, new products and flavors are in the pipeline, like the authentic Sicilian pizza, which is now available in the US, as well as the Philippines.

Karam reiterated: “We have a very broad menu, and it will not be reduced dramatically, but over time you will expect to see us continually emphasizing pizza. We also have great credibility in pasta and salad. In the US, we are not leaving the malls but we don’t want to be bound by the malls, so we’re developing off-mall stores and also delivery and carry-out business.”

The business of pizza is not just about cooking and serving. Success is anchored not only on food excellence, but also on the innate qualities of its people. Salvador emphasizes that, in this regard, Sbarro is about ‘developing people.’ He said, “We hire them because we believe in them, we want them to succeed.”

Lastly, Karam described the Sbarro brand in three words: passionate, quality, and pizza-focused. He elaborated: “Passionate because people who are part of this brand, no matter how long we’ve been there, we know that we have enormous satisfaction when we see customers lined up to eat our food. There is a sense of pride; we are all part of a team.”


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