Sbarro is using high tech to get back to basics.
The Melville-based Italian quick-service restaurant chain wants to go toe to toe with local pizzerias when it comes to pizza crust and taste. The company is relying on technological innovations to move toward less-processed ingredients and still maintain consistent results throughout its 1,000 restaurants.
The pizza sauce concentrate Sbarro once used has been replaced by all natural, vine-ripened, whole, peeled tomatoes sorted for size and red color. And the company has switched from packaged, frozen shredded mozzarella to fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese, delivered in blocks and shredded regularly on location to preserve its taste.
"The technology of the '90s allowed us to move from less consistent fresh product to consistent frozen and concentrated products," said Anthony Missano, president of Sbarro's business development and a 38-year company veteran. "Evolving technology has improved to such a degree, that we are now able to move back to fresh products with the highest level of consistency."
For a large chain such as Sbarro, producing food with the same taste, flavor and texture at every location every time is critical, Missano said.
In the past, the tomatoes packed for the company varied, so the company decided to use tomato-sauce concentrate that was packed with spices to give it a more uniform flavor. Now, the farm that grows Sbarro's tomatoes uses a harvesting machine equipped with a laser optics sorter. The machine is able to harvest tomatoes with similar traits, leaving behind those with serious blemishes or discoloration, Missano said.
The skins are removed with steam, without using chemicals. The tomatoes are packed with no artificial preservatives or citric acid, and the taste is maintained throughout all the restaurants, he said.
For many years after its founding, the company's locations shredded fresh mozzarella cheese. But like the tomato supply, the cheese shipments differed significantly in taste and texture throughout the seasons. Back then, Sbarro began purchasing frozen shredded mozzarella cheese to solve that issue.
Today the company has returned to the practice of shredding cheese. Since what cows eat affects the taste of their milk, its dairy farmers use technological innovations that allow a more uniform balance to the dairy cows' feed.
"Today," Missano said, "technology has controlled dairy feed, making corrections in the feed so the milk used to make the cheese provides consistent product coast to coast."