Column: A lesson better served toasted

In the newspaper business, we’re always searching for a hot lead. But right now, I can’t even get a hot sandwich.

D’Angelo is, regrettably, the undisputed sandwich king on this campus (my sympathy goes out to Mondo Subs, which somehow found a way to make a worse-tasting sub). Last year, my heart was aflutter when D’Angelo introduced its “Toasted Classics” menu and went on a massive advertising campaign to announce they were joining frontrunner Quizno’s and the lagging Subway in the toasting race.

They even changed the official name of the company to “D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches.” That’s how much they got into warming up the customer’s sandwich.

It’s therefore mind-boggling that they have refused – flat-out refused – to toast my ham and cheese sandwich. I’m a simple man and I like a simple sandwich – preferably, with its cheese melted. But time and time again they have shot down my plea and guess what? It really burns my bread.

Last week on a “research” trip to D’Angelo, the kind staff member with tied hands uttered the words I’ve heard since I started asking for a toasted ham and cheese last year: “We can’t do that.” What do they mean “can’t?” They obviously can – they have the toasting technology, which they boast about constantly.

So after a few moments of interrogation, I leaned in and asked, “Does this come down from above?” She looked around nervously and nodded, proving my conspiracy theory may have some legs.

And that’s when I decided it was time to do some grilling of my own.

I called Michael McManama, the company’s senior vice president of brand development, and got to the meat of the issue.

He told me that, sure enough, D’Angelo has officially been known as “D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches” for a year and a half now, as a result of the toasting dogfight.

“Quizno’s and Subway have made [toasting] an expected feature in a sub shop,” he said. “We felt the need to provide based on what the competition has done, and now we can provide sandwiches cold, grilled or toasted … It was a move to get in touch with what the needs of our guests have been.”

My response: If they are so eager to please their guests, why is Northeastern’s D’Angelo location completely ignoring the concept of “The customer is always right?”

I am pleased to report that he was as bewildered as I am.

“I’m a little embarrassed, because in the remainder of our restaurants we allow toasting of all sandwiches. I’m not sure what would single out the Northeastern location,” he said, before saying what I really wanted to hear: “I’ll have to gather some facts on that.”

Sure enough, the very next morning, McManama (who will from this point on be referred to as “Our Brave Hero”) got to the bottom of the no-toasting policy mystery. Apparently, the Northeastern location was “not aware” of the regular procedures, which include toasting of any sub upon a customer’s request. He also noted that subs not on the “Toasted Classics” menu follow another set of procedures that differs from the “Toasted Classics” toasting procedures.

Our Brave Hero theorized that perhaps the Northeastern location didn’t receive these instructions.

As a result of the lack of on-campus toasting, the vice president of quality assurance is paying a visit to Curry Student Center today and will “reinforce” these procedures, McManama said.

We’ll have to see how this meeting plays out, and whether the ban on non-toasted sandwich toasting is lifted. On Monday, I again ordered a toasted ham and cheese to see if Our Brave Hero’s phone call had struck a chord with the staff. But no, I was turned down yet again.

So, it all hinges on today’s reinforcement of procedures. And if everything goes according to plan, it would appear justice has been served – toasted.

– Glenn Yoder can be reached at [email protected]

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