Just over a week ago I was here telling you that I had gotten a tip that the gluten free test markets at Subway were going away as of January 1st, 2014. I looked into it and going on Subway’s statement to me, I did a post on Debunking a Rumor about Gluten Free Subway.
But as my readers pointed out, what Subway public relations told me and what customers in some of those markets are experiencing first hand– are not the same.
Gluten Free Subway Sandwich Test Markets
On January 2nd, 2014, Subway public relations specialist Alison Goldberg told me, “I spoke with Mark Christiano, our Baking Specialist and he said the test program is not going away. We are continuing to test the gluten free roll and brownie in select markets.”
I asked her if Duluth, MN; Tacoma, WA; Portland, OR and Dallas/Fort Worth, TX were still the markets and whether they had added any more. She told me “No additional test markets to report!”
Since the “Debunking” report was published on January 7, I heard from many readers about the fact that they can no longer get the gluten free sandwiches in these markets. I made multiple attempts to reach Alison Goldberg to clarify readers statements. My questions have gone unanswered.
So starting late last week through Tuesday of this week, I called 178 Subway shops in these test markets to find out for myself. While the test markets may or may not have gone into the suburbs beyond the primary test market city, I chose to only contact the Subways with addresses specifically in Fort Worth, Dallas, Tacoma, Portland and Duluth. I did not search the suburbs or neighboring cities. When I called a shop, I asked whether they were still doing the gluten free sandwiches.
Gluten Free Subway Sandwich Current Status
Here is what I found.
Duluth, MN — All of the shops I called said they were no longer serving the sandwiches. Some added, it was because they can’t get the bread any more. Another person used the word “discontinued”. Many of them said it ended January 1st, 2014. Only the Kenwood location still had the gluten free buns at the time I was calling, but once they were gone, the gluten free sandwich was done there too.
I received this comment from one of my readers, Lauren, regarding last week’s Subway article,
“As a student as UMD, I ate Subway’s gluten free sandwich at least once a week… you can imagine my disappointment when they stopped carrying this as of January 1st! I am beyond upset at this! I did send them an email and a tweet, with no response… Perhaps you can contact them to find out, Amy? Maybe I just didn’t eat there enough to support their business??”
Lauren, you did your best. I hope some of these answers help. I hope to hear from Subway eventually.
Portland, OR — I called 50 shops here. Only two didn’t answer during my two separate attempts. But of the 48 who did, they all said they indeed are still doing the gluten free sandwich. These folks were very helpful. Many of them quickly explained it was $1.00 more for the bun. Another lady added that her staff was fully trained on how to handle the sandwiches as well.
Tacoma, WA — There were 28 Subways that came up on my list from Subway.com. Of those, 13 (46%) said they were still doing the sandwiches, 11 (39%) said they were not doing the sandwiches and 4 shops (14%) didn’t answer their phone on two separate tries.
Fort Worth, TX — I contacted 43 Subway restaurants in this city. 12 (28%) said yes, they were still doing the gluten free sandwich, 24 (55%) said they were no longer doing the gluten free sandwich, and only one did not answer their phone which equated to 2%.
Dallas, TX — There were 48 Subways in Dallas. 11 (22%) said yes they were still doing the gluten free sandwich, 30 (62%) said they were no longer serving the gluten free sandwiches. Many said they stopped that within the last year. Seven restaurants didn’t answer their phone during the two separate attempts I made which equates to 14%.
So what does this mean? I tried to find out from Subway.
In an email, I asked them many specific questions:
- Why are some shops discontinuing while other shops aren’t?
- Why do employees in the Duluth market tell us the sandwiches are discontinued because they can’t get the bread anymore, when other markets are clearly getting it?
- Why wasn’t Subway more straight forward with me when I asked about this weeks ago?
- What is the future of the gluten free sandwich?
- Is the gluten-free test market not meeting their expectations?
Subway has not yet responded to my questions. I did call Subway this morning and had to leave a voice mail with Ms. Goldberg. When I receive a response I will most certainly publish it here.
My opinion on this whole thing? First, I do want to give Subway kudos. I have been a supporter of their seemingly calculated process in rolling out the test markets. Taking on a gluten free sandwich, doing it right and not screwing it up in a national sandwich chain restaurant can’t be easy. Subway, in our experience up in the Duluth market, had a process. They tried to keep the bun (prepackaged), ingredients (in separate containers away from the line) and utensils (prepackaged) as safe from cross contamination as possible. They tried!
If you can still get the gluten free sandwiches where you are, enjoy it while you can. You may even want to call ahead to confirm the shop you’re going to has the gluten free bun.
In the last two years Subway has not expanded the test market past four cities. And now technically (even if unofficially) the test market has shrunk down to 3 (if you can even call the Texas market a test market when the majority of shops no longer do the gluten free sandwich). It seems like the writing is on the wall. I would not be surprised if the gluten free Subway sandwich goes away for good. If for some reason it makes a huge comeback, I will happily eat crow.