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Executive Suite: Anthony Missano, Melville

Anthony Missano worked his way up from pizza

Anthony Missano worked his way up from pizza maker to president of business development at Sbarro, the Italian food franchise company, of Melville. (March 4, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

Anthony Missano began his tenure at Sbarro Llc, the Melville-based fast-casual Italian chain, as a dishwasher and intended to stay for six months. That was the summer of 1975.

Since then, Missano, 54, now Sbarro's president of business development, has had a career that has undergone many incarnations, as the company evolved from a small family business to a global chain of more than 1,000 locations.

Some people change companies to build resumes and gain skills.

Missano, a Huntington native, said he's been able to do that at one company.

How did you get your start?

I learned in my junior year that I was going to be able to graduate a year early, and I couldn't start college until January of '76. So there was a grand opening at Sbarro in Huntington, and my parents drove me there. I got a job as a dishwasher. I was a little upset. I was like, "Geez, I could be pumping gas and working on cars."

But the first day, one of the Sbarro family members saw me and said, "You've been washing dishes all night. I want you to do food prep instead." After my first day, I was promoted from dishwasher to food prep, and I thought that was kind of cool.

How quickly did you move up?

Every time another four to five weeks would pass by, I'd get introduced to a different position. I went from food prep to line cook to pizza maker. By December, I was given the keys to open the restaurant.

A couple of years after I started, Sbarro was opening up additional restaurants. I was asked to go to these restaurants and train the staff. Here I am just turning 20, and I am traveling to Canada and Puerto Rico, and I had never really traveled before.

Why did you decide to stay instead of going to college?

I wasn't thinking real long-term . . . At the time I thought I had done well enough to graduate school a year early. I had this free year to do what I wanted. I was making money [and] learning a trade. And it was Italian heritage for me. It was exciting for me to be able to cook so many dishes from scratch.

The economy was also terrible at the time. I was just really grateful I had a good job that I really liked.

Did you have mentors?

About four years after I started working, there was a gentleman who joined Sbarro from another restaurant chain.

The first few days he was there, he said to me, "Tony, don't put that apron on today. You're a manager. If you have to jump in because it's unavoidable, fine. But I want you to direct people."

That was significant because it was another skill I had to learn that had nothing to do with working with your hands. Now, it was strategy.

How did you develop the skills to manage larger and larger groups within the company?

As the company was growing, some really talented people were coming in. When I watched someone solve a problem well, I said, "I like that style" . . . and then I would take some of those characteristics and make them my own.


NAME: Anthony J. Missano, president of business development at Sbarro Llc in Melville.

WHAT IT DOES: "Fast-casual" Italian restaurant chain with about 600 franchise and 400 company-owned locations.

EMPLOYEES: About 4,600 in the parent company; about 240 of those on Long Island.

REVENUE: $650 million in restaurant sales in 2011, the most recent available data.

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