Attention to detail the missing ingredient in sandwich art

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | 8:30 a.m. CDT; updated 5:22 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Subway Restaurants,

My name is Andrew Del-Colle, and I love sandwiches. In fact, when I make a sandwich, I refer to it as having a “sandwich party.” I own a specialty sandwich knife, and I prefer to call any sandwich taller than two inches a “sammich.” I have been commended on my Strategic Bite Approach (SBA), and I hold a fervent belief in a hot dog’s ability to change one’s day (by definition, hot dogs are sandwiches, too). So, ladies and gentlemen, if I say I’m a sandwich man, you will agree.

Like any connoisseur, my love for the sandwich is based on the final product and the process that made it so. As an art aficionado treasures the thick and lively brushstrokes that make Van Gogh’s "Starry Night" a visual treat, I find the delicious taste of a sandwich to be the culinary dénouement created by proper attention to ingredients and composition. The latter is why I am writing to your company.

Although I understand the difficulties in closing a large sub loaded with toppings, over the years, I have noticed an increasing inconsistency in the quality of “the flip” at your establishments. The flip, when the sandwich is closed, is the split second when sandwich dreams can be made or shattered; all that came before means little if there is a bad flip.  It makes me nervous, and I often avert my eyes during this last step so as to avoid emitting an agitated sigh if the flip is bad — I really hate being that guy. Ingredients can get spilled, the bread can be closed unevenly, and dressings can get everywhere.   

These errors are frustrating because they show a lack of deference for the sandwich, and they can make the unwrapping process very problematic. In the past, I have attributed the problem to either employee carelessness or an unavoidable byproduct of a mealtime rush. However, a good rapport with my local Subway's employees has led me to conclude that these travesties are due to your corporate buffoonery rather than their lack of commitment.  

A few weeks ago, as my sub neared completion, I was familiar with the employee’s flip technique and thought it better that I turn around. Grimacing, I tentatively peeked over my right shoulder and was surprised to see the second-most beautiful Subway sandwich I have ever seen (the most beautiful was an Italian BMT I once got in Berlin — German efficiency is no joke). The key to the perfect flip was her use of the bread knife. Tucking the blade firmly into the center of the sandwich, she held the ingredients in place, preventing any spillage and creating a picture-perfect sub.  

I quickly turned from overjoyed to incredulous when I heard a fellow employee warn her not to use the technique in front of their manager. When asked to explain, he informed me that your corporation discourages the use of the knife in the closing of the sandwich. Although my attempt to obtain a copy of this specific policy was fruitless, conversations with other employees and the manager have verified such information.  Apparently, the knife is unnecessary if the proper amounts of ingredients are used.

Baloney! “The Works” includes every topping possible, and even with company-approved portions, catastrophe can strike with a knifeless flip. I understand this policy is a cost-preventative measure, but employees still overload the sandwich sans knife. And remember we’re talking vegetables here, not meats and cheeses, so do not claim that proper portions are imperative for health reasons. Besides, I know of few people who like to eat sandwiches as boring and plain as Jared looks.

With your “$5 Footlong” campaign in full swing, the knife has become of the utmost importance. Employees are often swamped, and emphasis is put on speed rather than precision. Although this is understandable, it does not mean that the consumer should receive a sloppy sandwich, or that employees should suffer the indignation of churning out, well, subpar subs. 

The absence of the knife provides no solutions — just messy sandwiches. If you truly value your customer service, then I encourage you to change this policy. And if your employees are really the “Sandwich Artists” you claim they are, then how dare you deny them the tools of their trade? Would you have made Van Gogh finger-paint rather than use his brush? I think not, and I would expect you to extend that same courtesy to your employees. 

Yours truly,

Andrew Del-Colle

Andrew Del-Colle is a former Missourian reporter and a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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durie o June 10, 2009 | 8:18 p.m.

While I am surprised and overjoyed to find a fellow sandwich enthusiast, I regret that we have found each other in desperate times. Fellow Americans, we are at war - war against sloppy sandwich makers!

Far be it for me to judge anyone for their sandwich-making style (it usually takes me a full 10 minutes to finish a masterpiece), but commercial sandwhichiers have sullied the art. 'The Flip,' as you referred to it, is only the tip of the iceberg. There is also the general carelessness with which sandwiches are being made in this country. Ingredients are thrown around willy nilly. Have you ever seen a sandwich with three slices of tomato on one side while the other side was tomatoless? If you answered yes, then you are the resistance.

I, like you, Andrew, hate being that guy in line to be ever so particular about that layout of my sandwich. I hate even more being the guy at that table that is reorganizing the inside of his food, but so often, I find myself playing that part disappointed and sad. I implore you, commercial sandwich-makers, make mine as you would make your own, and never leave out the most important ingredient, effort.

(Report Comment)
Mark Del-Colle June 14, 2009 | 9:53 p.m.

It was only a matter of time.........

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