Sbarro names James Greco president, CEO

Former Bruegger’s CEO joins former Wendy’s president, J. David Karam, who joins Sbarro as chairman

Italian quick-service brand Sbarro Inc. has named former Bruegger’s chief executive James Greco president and chief executive, effective immediately.

In addition, Sbarro appointed former Wendy’s International president J. David Karam to the post of chairman, the company reported Tuesday. The company also named two additional directors to its board: Desmond Hague, chief executive of Centerplate, and David Wiggins, a turnaround specialist.

Greco succeeds Nicky McGrane, who had served as Sbarro’s interim president and chief executive. The Melville, N.Y.-based company said McGrane, who led Sbarro through its recent Chapter 11 organization, is leaving to pursue other opportunities.

Karam succeeds Michael Feder, a managing director at management consulting firm Alix Partners. Feder, who has been Sbarro’s interim chairman since November 2011, will continue to serve as an advisor to the company.

“We’re extremely pleased to have attracted a top-tier talent like Jim to Sbarro,” Karam said in a statement. “Jim has outstanding credentials and will provide strong leadership as the company continues to grow.

“At the same time, we want to recognize the contributions that Nicky made as interim CEO. His stewardship during a difficult time for Sbarro was immensely valuable,” he said.

Greco, who most recently piloted the Burlington, Vt.-based Bruegger’s, had teamed up with private equity firm Sun Capital to acquire the bagel chain in 2003. Sun Capital said it earned a return of 36 percent on its investment during that time. As chief executive, Greco turned around the ailing company, generating more than 20 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales. It also acquired Timothy’s World Coffee’s retail brands.

Greco left Bruegger’s late last year after the company was purchased by Groupe Le Duff SA, a French bakery-café operator, earlier in 2011.

“I think Sbarro’s a great brand with a lot of potential,” Greco told Nation’s Restaurant News, “and I think it will respond to the right strategy. The vision we have here is that Sbarro can be a pre-eminent fast-casual brand in Italian food.”

And, he added, “I think that by working on the fundamentals and food, the hospitality and guest service, and the appearance of the restaurants, we can create an experience that will enable us to achieve that vision.”

Greco said that in the short-term the company will focus on improvements to a number of its menu items as well as examine the entire guest experience — “The way we interact with the guest.”

“Sbarro has some really great assets,” Greco continued. “It has tremendous brand name recognition — just about everyone knows Sbarro. It has a unique space in the fast-casual segment. And the Italian category isn’t overwhelmed in the locales in which we operate. There is plenty of opportunity there.”

Karam most recently was president of Wendy’s International, where he oversaw improvements in product quality, operational execution and brand profitability. Prior to joining Wendy’s in 2008, Karam served as president of Cedar Enterprises, a Wendy’s franchisee with 150 locations in Indianapolis, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Hartford, Conn., and Seattle.

Sbarro Inc. exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection [3] with reduced debt and a new $35 million capital infusion from its lenders in November 2011. The company filed for Chapter 11 in April 2011, blaming reduced customer traffic, increased competition, and higher food costs for its financial performance.

Sbarro has more than 1,000 restaurants in more than 40 countries. It generated sales of $476 million in 2010, down from $481 million a year earlier, according to Nation’s Restaurant News Second 100 special report, which ranks chains and companies in the foodservice industry.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story has been updated to include comments from James Greco.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] [4].