This is the story of my encounter with Panago and their policies on gluten-free options.
Me and my girlfriend decided to order a pizza. I choose Panago over some other choice because they have those cool jazz soundtrack commercials where there isn’t anyone saying anything. It’s just jazz. Something you can snap your fingers to. What happened to me during my last visit to Panago had me wanting to raise my middle one instead.
This is what happened: we go to order the pizza in question, a chorizo and goat cheese selection that looked particularly appetizing, and in the process we are met with the following warning. This was the moment where I suspected that I was about to get really mad about something really stupid.
Now, after reading it twice I decided we should try to place the order again, because maybe we accidentally selected something else besides the gluten-free crust. Again, the message pops up. So I decide to just go into the restaurant and ask the person working for myself what the deal is. The young woman looked at me as if she had been asked the same question many times by other people, and proceed to explain what the deal is. Long story short: the message is popping up as intended. Panago is serving “gluten free crust” that has so much gluten in it, they are legally required to tell us.
When it comes to gluten-free options, if you are some CEO, you are looking at the general public in two different types of groups: the people who are on a gluten-free diet, and the people who cannot eat gluten without suffering serious effects. I don’t claim to know what happened with Panago, but I would suspect it went something like this:
“OK, guys, if we change the recipe a little bit, and make the crust a little less gluten-heavy, we can charge some suckers out there on this ‘diet’ extra money for what is basically just less ingredients on our part. Charge more for less. This is a genius plan. Hey, put on some more of that jazz?”
In other words, go after the people who are on diets and ignore the Celiacs because you don’t have to source out gluten-free flour, which is more expensive than wheat. Good call, guys. That is really quite clever because all the people who would be on a gluten-free diet—for the sake of being on a diet, and losing weight/eating healthy—are going to be ordering …a pizza.
But I don’t want to loose weight; I just want a pizza without gluten.
The Diet, and the Lifestyle
There is that old saying: fashion is temporary; style is forever. It’s a similar thing here: if you are Celiac, it’s for life.
This is how I live: I walk around with hawk-eye vision carefully watching, thinking, and hoping that I will find a place to eat that has the types of options that I am looking for. Otherwise, I am either going to endure an allergic reaction or starve. That’s why, when you do aquire on of us, it’s with more of a consumerist hold than you could ever achieve with a non-Celiac customer.
If you serve legitimate gluten-free options, we will all flock to you. But you have to get it right.
Update: Panago Weighs In
Since the publication of this post, Panago’s Director of Marketing, Christie, has weighed in on the issue. This was kicked off mostly because of the testimony of another commenter about his wife’s experience at Panago.
First off, though the above was somewhat tongue-and-cheek, I was wrong. There wasn’t some flour-encrusted conspiracy going on behind closed pizza boxes. Just regular business. I am applaud Panago for taking the time to explain their side of the story to the public, in a public forum. It is nice when companies do that, and we (the public) appreciate it. You can read the comments below, but suffice it to say, the warning in question can be traced to the fact that these gluten-free crusts are still being prepared in an environment where flour is floating around. And fair enough. I think that is a totally acceptable response for a Pizza franchise.
But here is where it gets interesting from my point of view as a “sorta-Celiac.” Just be honest. The weird thing about the warning is that it seems like you’re trying to hide something. When I read it initially I think I got mad because it was so confusing. It reads like a contradiction. You have to think of it in the experiential sense, ie. having just made a selection on a web form. You think you are getting closer to a gluten-free pizza, but then the message makes it seem like the selection was for some crust that isn’t gluten free. Like I say (above) I tried it twice just to make sure that something had not messed up.
Why not say something like this?
That’s just my take on it. At least then if it’s a person like me who can handle ambient flour dust settling on my pizza, can decide to go ahead and give you MONEY. That’s the name of the game, right? And then people like the wife of the commenter in question who suffer severely to that type of cross-contamination can decide that it’s not for them. You lose that sale, but not mine. Unlike the worst case scenario, where you lose the sorta-Celiacs and the fulls.
I’m just looking out for you, Panago.