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.
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