Consumer Reports Verifies Slate’s Findings on Sbarro

Slate's Culture Blog
June 30 2011 12:54 PM

Consumer Reports Verifies Slate’s Findings on America's "Least Essential Restaurant"

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In May, Justin Peters assessed Sbarro, the pizza chain he dubbed “America’s least essential restaurant,” for Slate. Peters writes:

The food there is mediocre and unimaginative—assembly-line Italian festooned with cheese and sugary tomato sauce, a bland version of the homey fare found at postseason soccer banquets or church fundraising suppers .... The prevailing sentiments among online reviewers alternate between disgust ("If you like pizza dough that tastes like clay, then this would be your spot to go") and resignation ("I stopped by the Sbarro at the Philly airport because the line was shorter than the philly cheesesteak line").

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Today, Consumer Reports has published the results of a huge fast-food survey, which involved 98,000 visits to 53 different chains. I pity the nearly 40,000 subscribers who participated—all that artery-clogging, gut-busting work, and the conclusions are pretty much what you’d expect: Diners want better food and a better experience. Nobody buys salads. In-N-Out has the best burgers (as anyone from California with tastebuds can tell you).

The survey also confirmed that Peters' feelings about Sbarro are widely shared: Sbarro—poor, beleaguered, bankruptcy-declaring Sbarro—was singled out for its unappetizing fare: 27 percent of patrons judged the food to be “fair, poor, or very poor.” On a scale of 1 to 10 (“from least delicious to most delicious you've ever eaten”), Consumer Reports readers gave the pizza at Sbarro a 5.7.

At least it’s got some company down there: Little Caesar’s also garnered a 5.7, and CiCi’s Pizza just nudged ahead with a 5.8. Meanwhile, despite its aggressive (and strange) rebranding effort, Domino’s hovers just above the bottom of the pack, with a score of 6.1.

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.