For the most part, though, appealing to the sort of person who actually likes food has never been Sbarro’s strong point. Blair Chancey, editor of fast-food trade journal QSR magazine, told me that Sbarro’s target demographic is “young, hungry males,” and this might be so. But it also seems as though Sbarro courts the indifferent eater—tourists, children, people who just want a slice and a place to sit while they talk about the amazing pants they saw on sale at The Limited. As far as I could tell, I was the only employed New Yorker dining at the two Manhattan venues I tried. The Sbarro I visited at the Hawthorn Mall food court was crowded with teenagers lured by the promise of free breadstick samples. And the Sbarro in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station (where my slice tasted no better or worse than expected) was busy with commuters, tourists, and children wearing T-shirts advertising the fact that they were on a field trip.

I’ve suffered through some bad Sbarro slices in my day. This almost makes up for it.


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.