Wednesday, May 18, 2011

3 Strikes for Au Bon Pain

I work in downtown Pittsburgh and am finding that gluten-free lunch options are very limited. I was doing some research to see if any downtown restaurants published a gluten-free menu. I was pleasantly surprised to see that on Au Bon Pain's website their menu includes allergy warnings for each item. I reviewed the menu before venturing to my nearest location to decide what I wanted to order. Soup weather is extremely common in Pittsburgh and I noted that there were several gluten-free soups on the menu. I headed to Au Bon Pain and ended up in a "3 Strikes You're Out" situation.

Strike 1- Of the 8 soup choices they were offering that day, only one was labeled gluten-free. The gluten-free Tuscan Bean soup seemed to be featuring pasta. Gluten-free pasta?? Possibly, but unlikely I'd say. I asked the nearest worker if there was really supposed pasta in the Tuscan Bean. He left to talk to the chef, and came back with a different label for the soup. Now, out of the 8 soups zero were gluten-free. Glad I asked. Hope no one was actually depending on the labels to be correct.

Strike 2- I went to the salad bar to order a salad that I had found in my research to be ok. I mentioned to the chef that I needed her to be careful because I needed the salad to be gluten free. "I don't even know what gluten is", she replied. I explained to her what gluten was, and said that I already checked and the salad was gluten-free as long as she didn't deviate from the recipe and was careful of cross-contamination by mixing it in a clean bowl. She seemed almost offended by what I had said and snapped back "I don't changed the recipe unless someone tells me to, and we always use clean bowls." I told her that was great and to just make the salad. As her manager walked by she threw my order slip and said "Will you make this salad, she said she wants it to be gluten-free and I don't even know what gluten is."

Strike 3- I wrote an email to Au Bon Pain stating that if they are going to advertise gluten-free products, they should #1 actually serve them when they are labeling them gluten-free and #2 make sure their employees know what gluten is. The current status of that email- no response from Au Bon Pain.

Perhaps this was just a bad experience at one location, but their disinterest in giving me the courtesy of an email response back was my 3rd strike.

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