I love a good fast-food restaurant controversy. Whether these companies are trying to sneak horse-meat into their cow-meat burgers, gross “pink slime”, revealing the “shocking” ingredients in the fryer oil at Mickey D’s (WHAT?! McDonald’s isn’t certified Organic? Get outta here), or a chain taking a stand on a hot-button issue based on their religious beliefs (Chick Fil-A made even the most bigoted homophobes say, “whoa, that’s really intolerant”), I reach my target nirvana when my intense hunger is mixed with some delicious scandal. And these days, some of the most satisfying cases of customer revolt can be found on Subway’s Facebook page.
Subway has a very impressive following on Facebook (over 27 million) and Twitter (nearly 2 million), with a motto that’s become ingrained on our collective psyche, “Eat Fresh”. Great message – positive, healthy. You’ve got to really build a strong relationship with your customer base to attract so many fans to your social channels, and communicating that your company cares about their health is a perfect way to do it. Never mind that most of the trolls following Subway are just joining the fray to heckle them over a variety of easy targets:
Subway: “Why not try the Meatball Marinara footlong on flatbread today? We love it! #EatFresh”
Subway Fan: “LOL I bet you love the footlong meat.”
Multiply this by 100 for every Subway Facebook post, and throw in a few random complaints about the $5 footlongs not being offered at some stores (and the requisite naughty responses telling them where they can find the footlong), and you have a pretty good idea of the Subway Facebook experience.
Early this year, Subway’s social presence has become a war-zone thanks to Vani Hari, the blogger behind “Food Babe” (the food world’s version of Suze Orman). Hari published a petition to get Subway to stop the use of azodicarbonamide. The chemical is used as a “foaming agent”, giving yoga mats their light, cushiony quality (yoga mats are oddly emphasized throughout this whole controversy). Although the use of azodicarbonamide is a common practice among processed foods companies (the chemical is used by Archer Farms, in Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, danish and cinnamon rolls from Little Debbie, Pillsbury Toaster Scrambles, Toaster Struedels, Smuckers Uncrustables, three varieties of Weight Watchers Smart Ones meals, and over 500 other items), Hari admitted that she specifically targeted Subway as a way to shame them publicly for their health-focused marketing campaign. Bad Subway!
Vani Hari’s petition is slyly worded to highlight the inedible products made with this chemical (which she notes as “rubbery objects”), and to convey that if you eat this bread, you’re fucked (“When azodicarbonamide is heated, there are studies that show it is linked to tumor development and cancer” – then don’t get it toasted, dummy). A warning to the Foodservice industry: Don’t try to deceive Food Babe, and don’t call her “Babe”, either. She is the type of food blogger that will check your email when you leave the room.
Subway has already announced that they’ll no longer be using the chemical (Namaste, bitches!), but they’ll never be able to escape the shame that Food Babe has wrought, and “YogaGate” will forever survive on every future Facebook comment. Sorry, Subway, this is what happens in the modern age. Nothing can get swept under the yoga mat nowadays.