Wednesday, July 6, 2011

100 SUBWAYS in Oregon offer GF sandwich bread as of Monday July 11th

Interesting news about SUBWAY! I went last night to the Subway on SW Bond in the South Waterfront to to try out their new GF sandwich offerings. I understood it to be test market event, looks like it's so much more. (See Big News below.)

I spoke to Katherine Orr, Director of Operations and Michelle, the DA (District Agent) in charge of Western Oregon, inc. Bend and SW Washington. Michelle also happens to own that Subway restaurant on SW Bond. The bread that they used was by Rich Products out of NY. Looks like they were a conventional bakery and then acquired a GF bakery. They look to be like a big food-service company offering GF items out of Buffalo.

The bread was more of a hamburger bun, smaller than the typical Subway roll. They washed their hands before every GF order, and put on new gloves. They open a bag that contains an individual GF bun, place it on a piece of paper, and sliced the roll/bun and toasted/warmed it. Then the toppings were added. Any meat is gluten-free except the teriyaki, meatball and seafood which contain gluten. They also offered samples of GF brownies. Some employees couldn't say if the brownies were also dairy free (they are) and were confused by that question.

I haven't eaten in a fast food restaurant in years, and before I was gluten free I rarely ate in one anyway, so I don't have much to compare it to. I think I ate one Subway sandwich ever in my life in the early 1990's. The GF bun was soft and not chewy or fragile/crumbly. My kids (19, 21) were happy with their meal. My daughter is also GF so she was happy. My husband ordered a sandwich which required double-toasting and felt that his bread fell apart a bit. One of my friends thought the bun was bland. Two non-GF folks like the sandwich and didn't have a problem with it at all.

Subway said that they test marketed this GF sandwich process in Texas for 1.5 years (since January 2010) with 300 restaurants offering GF sandwiches. They claim that they had zero complaints of contamination or sickness in the 1.5 years. Oregon is the second location to go GF for Subway. Though a quick internet search shows some have been in place in Texas since earlier this year only.

There were some attendees last night who were worried about crumbs of GF bread cross-contaminating w/ the meats and veggies. Valid point. Subway's response: we just dig deeper into the meats to get a piece without crumbs. What(???!!) As if crumbs can't fall deeper into the pan? Definitely a potential problem. And touching the handle of the oven, I could see some issues, too. So some cross-contamination issues are possible. Turns out the employee who made most of the GF sandwiches is a higher-up in the company. She was very efficient and was correcting some of the other employees on hand washing, etc.

A great turnout last night. When I left they thought they had passed out 120 sandwiches and were willing to continue throughout the night until the store closed at 11pm, or their inventory of 180 buns was gone. It was bustling when I got there.

Big News:

Next Monday, July 11th 100 Subway restaurants, (97 in the Portland Metro area and 13 in the Bend/Redmond area) will offer the GF bread for sandwiches. Each Subway restaurant is individually owned and operated, so I'm not sure which ones will offer GF. Last week there was a massive training of personnel on cross-contamination issues, and they used Texas' manual and procedures to get the same results. The sandwiches will be sold at $1 extra. Rich's GF brownies will be $2.

Portland Corporate Subway was told that they were the next test market two weeks ago, and I found out a day after that. They don't even have a website up, and advertising is scrambling.

I called the Irvington Subway store (NE 13th & Broadway) nearest my house and asked if they were going GF and they said, "I doubt it. I haven't heard anything about it." I then called the Park Ave Subway (near my office downtown) and they very excitedly and knowledgeably told me that all 6 downtown Subway stores "from Alder, down" have the goal of offering GF sandwiches on Monday 7/11 if their inventory arrives on time. I understand that that Subway inside PSU and the 24-hour one outside PSU will offer them also. (very smart to capture the university crowd).

Well, that's what I have to report. Pretty interesting, huh? A fast-food type restaurant offering a real GF option! Who'd a thunk it? And not just GF McDonald's french fries, but a meal (well, a fast-food meal). Feel free to share the info.
- Lisa, GIG of Portland branch manager


Jodi said...

The guy who answered the phone at the Corvallis Subway this morning did not know anything about gluten-free subs.

Amber @ The Momma Stuff Blog said...

Was the gluten-free bread also dairy free? Any chance if you know if it is soy-free?
Thanks for the post - I'm traveling to Oregon next week and it would be amazing if I could stop and pick up a sandwich en route!
Amber :)

Unknown said...

Hi. I wanted to tell you that I ordered a sandwich today at Subway and when I asked for the gluten-free bread, all of the ladies behind the counter got excited. The girl who made my sandwich changed her gloves, washed her hands and then got a clean cloth and wiped down the handles of the toaster. I was impressed. And the sandwich tastes pretty good, too! This was the location on SW 6th btwn Main and Salmon.

Karissa Thompson said...

I went to the Subway on Sylvan, off Hwy 26. The gal behind the counter was so careful about cross contamination! It was great AND the sandwich was good too!

Tutti Tappy said...

The Subway in the Troutdale Outlet Mall served gluten free sandwiches. The sandwich makers were very careful about preventing cross contamination and the sandwich tasted great! I am so excited to have fast food choice! Thank you Subway!

gandil6 said...

In reedsport Oregon, Not not only do they clean the tray handle, but they make the sandwich on a different counter and they bring out a tray of veggies and condiments only associated with GF sandwiches! I told them it wasn't a health concern just a new diet choice, they said they like the practice!