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The Unfortunate Capriotti’s Experience

I HAVE BEEN FLIED TO. (that’s a food lie)

About a month ago, I was super excited to find out that Capriotti’s, a sub sandwich chain, not only had vegetarian subs, but was opening a new location in my ‘hood. I wrote to the PR contact pronto:

Hi-

My name is Andrea and I write for SuperVegan.com – I just read about your location that is opening tomorrow in LA and decided to check out your website to see what your Veggie options are and was delighted to find your faux turkey sandwiches! I would like to visit the restaurant and do a post about this. BUT, can you please tell me if your sandwiches are suitable for a Vegan (if the cheese is left off, of course)? It would be extra great if you could send me an ingredients list for these items, and the bread, too!

Thanks thanks
-Andrea

Here is what I heard back:

Hi Andrea,

Thanks so much for reaching out! The Veggie Turkey is suitable for vegans.

I will double check about getting the ingredients for the items. The bread might be difficult since it is a propriety recipe that has been used for 35 years.

I do know for a fact The Bobbie, which is the signature sandwich, is unfortunately not vegan, as the stuffing has chicken stock.

I would be happy to send some coupons- just let me know the best address.

How exciting, right? Here’s my reply to her reply:

Thanks, [name redacted]-

Do you know what brand of Veggie Turkey it is? And it’s okay if you can’t share the bread ingredients, but would be great to know if it’s vegan and whether or not it contains honey. And too bad about the stuffing, that’s always the most delicious part. Tell someone over there to start using a faux chicken stock, pretty please?

Coupons! Lucky me!

Now you might think I’m making these e-mails up, after the fact, but that’s just how I write, K? So then, I didn’t hear anything for awhile. I eagerly checked the mailbox every day to no avail. Finally, I followed-up AGAIN.

I’d still love to review this– any update for me? And I never received anything from you, just in case you sent me those coupons!

To which they responded:

I actually just got more coupons in on Friday so I will send those out to you today.

There is no honey in the bread!

I finally got the coupons and headed there at lunch time today. I had a pretty thorough conversation with a gentlemen behind the counter about what was and was not vegan. He told me the veggie burger was Morningstar Farms and not vegan. He told me the Veggie Cheesesteak was vegan, if you leave the cheese off, which we agreed was kindof lame. He knew I was a Vegan blogger and he knew I was ordering myself a Veggie Turkey Sub and he said nothing. Even when I asked him what brand the Veggie Turkey was, he said, “Worthington’s.” Now, I guess I should’ve known that most Worthington’s products contain non-vegan things like egg whites, but you know what– SO SHOULD THEY. Especially after asking and re-asking and then asking again.

After I demolished the sandwich, posted a picture of it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter proclaiming its yumminess, I got curious and went on the good ol’ internet to find out about Worthington’s. I was concerned. Then some of you fine SuperVegans seconded my concern. I immediately wrote to that PR person again asking if it really was vegan after all and heard nothing right away. I tweeted some more. Capriotti’s started following and then got in on it, apologizing and asking me to write them directly to “make it up to me.” So I did.

Here’s the reply I got to that e-mail:

As an owner of Capriotti’s, I am very embarrassed for the miscommunication which led you to eat a non-Vegan product, promote it, and have it hurt your credibility. As mentioned in our tweet to you our Veggie Chicken Cheesesteak is vegan, but the turkey is not. We have vegetarians and vegans that work here and very much appreciate our Vegetarian and Vegan customers that we have. I feel awful and completely understand your anger over this. I will personally make sure that our PR firm doesn’t have incorrect info and misinform anyone about our products again. Please let me know what I can do to make this right.

THEN, I heard back from PR Land:

I can not express how sincerely sorry I am. I do not think words can describe how terrible I feel for misleading you.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do in an attempt to make up for this.

I hope this will not negatively affect you feelings for Capriotti’s as this was my fault. I clearly believed it was vegan. While I am not vegan myself I know how important this is.

Again, my sincerest apologies.

This is just so unfortunate, and not just because of the diarrhea.

Now, let’s get some perspective. This is not the end of the world. I am not going to die. (They are lucky I am not deathly allergic to egg whites though, that’s for sure.) I do believe that this was a colossal clusterfuck of fuck-ups on every level that was not intentional, but just — I don’t know what– laziness? Ignorance? A lot of times people do the best they can, but a lot of other times people do the least work possible to get the job done. Now that they’ve been caught and called-out I think they genuinely feel terrible and want to make amends somehow and I do appreciate that as much as I can. And trust me, if this was just a regular ol’ case of “accidents happen” I would not be making such a big stink. Accidents DO happen regularly, but never before have I experienced one with so many flies (food lies) involved in it’s conception.

So SuperVegans, I want to hear from you. What CAN they do to “make this right”?? Keep in mind that now the only Vegan item on their menu is that Veggie Chicken Cheesesteak minus the cheese, and really, what’s the point of that?

15 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Heather

    on #

    It sounds to me like it was ignorance. In my experiences (I live in rural America) people often don’t understand what I am asking, even when I explain it to them. I agree if they are marketing something as vegan, then they better be darn sure, but it sounds to me like they are very apologetic. I would suggest that they provide an allergy list.
    When I go to a restaurant, it is my favorite thing, but it is must list everything that has eggs, milk, wheat, soy, etc. They could include honey without giving up their proprietary ingredients.
    Mistakes happen, but as long as they are willing to make it up and work toward a solution. I would also suggest they find a vegan turkey! Now is a great chance to suggest that they carry a vegan turkey. Think about how awesome it would be for them to make the change.
    There is my two cents.
    Eating in rural America can be super complicated for a vegan (no one has ever even heard the word vegan in half the place I eat). You can read my blog at wellmangroup.blogspot.com.

  2. Comment by

    Alphonse

    on #

    Yeah, the extent to which the truth about this sandwich was obscured or not covered correctly is pretty lousy, and I hate eating stuff and then finding out it might not have been vegan, or just straight up wasn’t.

    At the same time, it’s cool that they’re owning up to the mistake and trying so strenuously to make amends. Beyond ensuring this won’t happen again just by having the proper information disseminated, I’d like to see them make this a truly vegan sandwich, maybe by using Tofurky products instead of Worthington. This way vegans know there’s a sandwich they can completely eat without modifying it or worrying about any products, and Capriotti’s can have a sandwich for everyone.

  3. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    Some Worthington’s/Loma Linda products and some Morningstar Farms products are vegan. So the brand names alone are not automatic disqualifiers.

    (Both brands are owned by Kellogg’s and thus presumably problematic in terms of environmental, GMO, corporate, and labor issues. But that’s separate issues.)

  4. Comment by

    joe

    on #

    Why not just stop eating this processed garbage and go straight to the vegetable source to avoid this nonsense?

  5. Comment by

    Chris

    on #

    Uh, they could get Tofurkey and Daiya and make some delicious vegan sandwiches. They could promote their response to the mistake and assure vegans that everyone at the company now understands what vegans do and don’t want in their food. They’d be ahead of Subway in bringing a veggie meat sub to their chain of restaurants and they could promote that as well. Heck, they could even include you in their marketing and they could give away coupons for vegan sandwiches to some lucky contest winners. Mistakes are something we all make, the revealing part is in the handling of the mistake. The fact that you’re a blogger with an audience is what forced them to apologize at all. Encourage them to capitalize on the goodwill their apology has generated by creating a truly delicious, uncompromised vegan sandwich and they will reap the rewards. Win-win for everyone!

  6. Comment by

    Jamey

    on #

    It sounds like it was mainly the dumb PR person, and the not very bright person at the counter (which may have been new, if the store is new?) – so I wouldn’t necessarily fault the chain as a whole. This is the response I got when I emailed their main info address when I learned of a Dallas location opening:

    “Only one of our products is truly vegan and that is the Veggie Cheese Steak. The other items do have egg white in them.

    The problem though is that we do use our same flattop grill for both our regular subs and this vegan option. So because of that the only way to guarantee that it is truly vegetarian, let alone vegan, is for it to be cooked on a part of the grill that either has not been used or has been scraped down accordingly.

    I hope this answers your question. Have a great day.”

    This from the “Director of Training,” presumably their corporate office.

    So I think the company as a whole understands and is knowledgeable, they just haven’t done a great job in training the staff.

    That being said, not sure how excited it makes me to go there, even with the one vegan option.

  7. Comment by

    Karen

    on #

    I read your article and cringed. I no longer eat out. I can’t afford to, my immune system can’t handle it. I have an immune disease (some call it an allergy) with Casein. My husband asked me last year, if I was never again going to eat in a restaurant. I told him if it was a 100% Vegan restaurant I would gladly eat there, otherwise no.
    He thought I was being overly dramatic. I told him that the best intentions won’t keep me from getting ill. I can’t take the chance that someone, even making vegan food, won’t accidentaly contaminate something I am going to consume. People don’t realize that “caramel coloring” or “natural flavors” sometimes contain whey protein. Stricter rules for labeling would be FABULOUS, but I watch the news, and am not holding my breath… just not eating out. :)

  8. Comment by

    francisco

    on #

    I try to avoid most chains. I only go to a chain when I have to travel and I have no other option of where to eat at. I hope for the best. I usually avoid the fake meat stuff because it doesn’t taste right to me anyhow. Short of a restaurant being 100% vegan or at least vegetarian, I wouldn’t trust anyone in any of those places of knowing what vegan is. Just avoid the veggie meat, ask for lots of vegetables and cross your fingers that there is no animal products in there.

  9. Comment by

    Apryl

    on #

    They seemed remorseful, and as a Las Vegan I know they try to do the right thing the best they can. Therefore, I’d trust that they truly are sorry and let it go. Your post is on the first page of google for anyone who wants to know what their vegan options are, so already I think the odds of this happening again are greatly diminished.
    Sorry this happened to you though. I’d have been pissed as well.

  10. Comment by

    Marc

    on #

    So was there a definite answer about the bread being vegan?

  11. Comment by

    Kevin

    on #

    I just tried Capriotti’s for the 1st time yesterday and fortunately I got the cheesesteak sans cheese. I have to say, the sandwich was delicious even without the cheese. If they do end up giving you coupons definitely head back for that.

  12. Comment by

    Amanda

    on #

    I got curious about the Veggie Turkey today when I tried the sandwich for the first time. A Google search led me to your article. I was mainly just curious about the ingredients in the turkey so your article provided a link for that. I did also read your story and that is an oversight on Capriotti’s part for sure. I would be extremely upset about that!! Also, a warning to those who are not vegan and are still eating Worthington’s turkey… It contains propylene glycol. I know its at the end of the list so the amount is probably small but that’s still not something I want to be eating so I know I will avoid this turkey from now on. Its used in some crazy stuff!

  13. Comment by

    Chad S

    on #

    A new store just opened up near my office and brought us some samples today. I can’t go near their food, if they do not publish ALL ingredients in their food, then they can forget my family ever being a customer. I’m not asking for recipe, but severe food allergies exist in my family, so I need to know every ingredient that goes into what goes into our mouths.

  14. Comment by

    Bria

    on #

    Wah wah wah. People that constantly complain. If you are so concerned go get your Vegan food elsewhere. fuckin scum.

  15. Comment by

    dd

    on #

    First of all, ‘Bria’ what the heck is your problem? A nasty piece of work you must be.
    Secondly, we must all be glad we’re not trying to find a vegetarian or god-forbid vegan meal in France. They insist to your face that chicken, mussels, shrimp and various fish are perfectly acceptable in a ‘vegetarian’ meal!

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