Sbarro to add more shops outside malls, new recipe boosts sales

Sbarro Inc., known for its quick-serve pizza shops in malls and airports, plans to add 10 standalone locations this year, following an overhaul of its pizza recipe in October, which has boosted sales and customer traffic by "several" percentage points, said Chief Executive Jim Greco, in an interview.

The shift in strategy comes as Sbarro hopes to better compete with chains that have more successfully positioned themselves a step above fast food, like Panera Bread Co. PNRA -3.22% and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CMG +0.51%

"For a number of years, we let these folks get ahead of us, and now we are making the changes to catch up," said Mr. Greco, who became chief executive about a year ago, shortly after the company exited bankruptcy.

A private company, the 56-year-old pizza chain, which originated in Brooklyn, saw sales slide during the recession as consumers stopped eating out and food costs rose, causing it to file for bankruptcy in April 2011.

Since taking the reins, Mr. Greco has been working to improve the pizza chain's image and expand outside its traditional mall-based territory. Currently, about 70 of its 620 U.S. locations are standalone ones. As the company adds to that this year, likely beginning in the spring, it hopes franchisees will follow suit, extending the brand beyond the confines of food courts.

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