Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for medical or lifestyle reasons. For those who love sandwiches but need to avoid gluten, finding good gluten free bread can be a real challenge. Many gluten free breads are dry, dense, and lack the taste and texture of regular wheat bread. However, some brands and bakeries have developed tasty gluten free bread options. One such option is the gluten free bread available at Firehouse Subs restaurants. Firehouse Subs is a popular fast casual sandwich chain with over 1,200 locations across the United States. In response to customer demand, they began offering gluten free bread and rolls at all their restaurants in 2019. For those who enjoy the Firehouse Subs menu but need to avoid gluten, this opened up many more menu options. But where exactly does Firehouse get their gluten free bread? Let’s take a look at the details and sourcing behind Firehouse Subs’ gluten free bread program.
About Firehouse Subs’ Gluten Free Bread
In 2019, Firehouse Subs introduced gluten free bread and rolls system-wide. They offer both white and multigrain gluten free bread options. The bread is provided by Schar, one of the major brands and suppliers of gluten free baked goods in the United States and Europe. Schar is known for making gluten free breads, pastas, and snacks using natural ingredients and manufacturing processes designed to preserve texture and taste. According to Firehouse Subs, Schar was selected as the gluten free bread provider because they are able to deliver fresh gluten free bread options that closely mimic the taste and texture of traditional wheat bread.
The ingredients for Firehouse Subs’ gluten free bread are simple and natural:
- Rice Flour
- Tapioca Starch
- Buckwheat Flour
- Millet Flour
- Guar Gum
As you can see, it is made without any artificial additives or preservatives. The combination of flours and starches provides the structure, rise, and texture of traditional gluten-containing bread.
Here is the nutrition information for Firehouse Subs’ gluten free white bread, according to their website:
|Serving Size||1 roll (80g)|
As you can see, the gluten free bread is relatively low in calories, fat, and protein compared to regular wheat bread. However, the carbohydrate content is similar due to the alternate flours used.
Schar’s Gluten Free Bakery
The story behind Firehouse’s gluten free bread begins with Schar and their specialized gluten free bakery in New Jersey. Schar operates a dedicated 100% gluten free bakery in Lyndhurst, NJ. This allows them to avoid any cross-contamination that could occur in a shared facility also processing wheat-based products. The facility combines traditional European artisan baking methods with modern food safety and gluten free manufacturing technology. Some key facts about Schar’s gluten free bakery include:
- Over 60,000 sq ft dedicated gluten free bakery
- No wheat, barley, rye or oats handled on site
- Separate air handling systems to prevent airborne gluten
- Carefully controlled recipes and baking procedures
- Extensive employee training on gluten free processes
- Regular 3rd party auditing for gluten safety
With these stringent controls in place, Schar can safely deliver large quantities of gluten free breads and baked goods to retail and wholesale customers. This includes clients like Firehouse Subs who need a reliable source of gluten free bread for their restaurants.
So how exactly does Schar turn gluten free ingredients into bread that looks and tastes good? They have invested heavily in research and development to mimic traditional bread texture, rise, and mouthfeel using gluten free alternative flours and starches. Some of the proprietary techniques include:
- Precise combinations of rice flour, tapioca starch, and other gluten free flours
- Added dietary fiber to improve texture
- Natural enzymes to strengthen the gluten free dough structure
- Extended fermentation and proofing times
- European sourdough techniques adapted for gluten free
- Slow baking process to achieve rise and golden crust
It took extensive trial and error to adapt these artisan baking practices to gluten free production. But the result is gluten free bread that looks, tastes, and feels closer to regular wheat bread, with sufficient softness and rise.
Testing and Verification
In addition to baking procedures, rigorous testing protocols ensure the safety of Schar’s gluten free products:
- Gluten free ingredients from verified gluten free suppliers
- Separate storage and handling of gluten free ingredients
- Extensive equipment cleaning procedures
- Gluten contamination testing of equipment and surfaces
- Finished product testing to less than 5-10 ppm gluten
- Ongoing employee training on gluten free procedures
These testing processes confirm that gluten levels remain below the international standard for gluten free certification. This gives Firehouse Subs confidence in using Schar breads for their gluten free guests.
Supply Chain Logistics
To make fresh gluten free bread available system-wide, Firehouse Subs relies on Schar’s network of nationwide production and distribution. Schar bakes portions of Firehouse gluten free bread daily at their New Jersey headquarters. They then use their transportation partner networks for timely delivery across the U.S. This ensures that Firehouse restaurants receive shipments of freshly baked gluten free bread 1-2 times per week. The bread is shipped frozen so that restaurants simply need to thaw it as needed on site. With such frequent deliveries, Firehouse is able to provide high quality gluten free bread that is as fresh as possible for their guests. The supply chain minimizes the time from bakery to restaurant to customer.
With over 1,200 Firehouse Subs locations across 45 states, serving fresh gluten free bread everywhere would be impossible without Schar’s extensive distribution infrastructure. Key components include:
- Strategically located production facilities in NJ, IN, and CA
- Expanded baking capacity to meet Firehouse Subs’ volume
- Refrigerated storage space across the country
- Shipping partnerships with national distributors
- Routes planned directly to Firehouse Subs locations
This allows most Firehouse Subs restaurants to receive deliveries directly from the closest Schar facility. The reach enables keeping the chain stocked with fresh gluten free bread options anywhere they operate.
Ordering and Inventory
Each Firehouse Subs location is responsible for monitoring their gluten free bread inventory and placing orders with Schar as needed. To account for unpredictable guest demand, restaurants keep extra inventory on hand. Shipments arrive 1-2 times per week to replenish stock. If unexpected demand arises or shipments are delayed, restaurants can place special orders to Schar for rush delivery. Both companies collaborate closely through shared ordering systems and account management processes. This ensures the right amount of gluten free bread is produced and delivered to meet Firehouse Subs’ guest demand.
The Customer Experience
For gluten free guests, being able to order their favorite Firehouse Sub on gluten free bread enhances the dining experience. Some of the benefits include:
- Confidence in trusted gluten free practices
- Ability to enjoy full flavor subs
- Less risk of reaction from gluten exposure
- Inclusion in the Firehouse Subs menu experience
Instead of feeling limited to salads or bowls, guests have access to the full iconic menu. The availability of gluten free bread opens up favorites like the Hook & Ladder, Engineer, and Italian subs which were previously off limits. Guests appreciate the care Firehouse Subs has taken to source safe and tasty gluten free bread. It provides a more welcoming and positive experience for those with dietary restrictions.
Taste and Texture
According to customer reviews, Firehouse Subs’ gluten free bread compares favorably to competitors. The lightly sweet taste and hint of sourdough are familiar flavors. The bread has an airy, soft crumb inside a slightly chewy crust. While perceptible differences exist from wheat bread, it provides a satisfying sandwich experience. The effort Schar takes to mimic traditional bread is noticeable in the finished product. Across the chain, the gluten free bread receives high marks for its ability to stand up to overstuffed Firehouse submarine sandwiches.
Preparation and Service
Employees at Firehouse Subs restaurants follow strict protocols to avoid cross-contamination when preparing gluten free orders:
- Thorough handwashing
- Fresh gloves used only for gluten free subs
- Cutting boards and knives cleaned and sanitized
- Gluten free bread stored separately
- Sandwiches labeled and bagged with gluten free tags
These steps ensure safety for gluten free guests. Overall, customers find the process quick, transparent, and accommodating. The gluten free sub preparation is not disruptive to speed of service for other guests.
Firehouse Subs’ successful gluten free bread program provides a model for other chains looking to expand options. Some possibilities for the future include:
- Wider range of gluten free bread varieties
- Gluten free desserts like cookies and brownies
- Pizza crusts and other savory baked items
- Meal kits and retail packaging for grocery
- Co-branding and flavors tailored to Firehouse
Both companies see room for innovation in serving this growing market segment. With An estimated 1 in 20 Americans now seeking gluten free foods, there is increasing consumer demand. Firehouse Subs is well positioned to leverage their supplier partnership with Schar. Together they can continue improving the choices and inclusion for gluten free guests.
For Firehouse Subs customers seeking great tasting gluten free subs, the bread is the key. Partnering with specialty bakery Schar allows Firehouse to deliver gluten free bread with quality, safety, and consistency across their chain. With diligent manufacturing processes and nationwide supply chain, Schar enables fresh gluten free bread systemwide. This allows guests to enjoy the iconic Firehouse Subs sandwiches they love, without worry of gluten exposure. The program is a win for the customers and for the brands collaborating to meet this dietary need. As the popularity of gluten free eating continues, look for further innovations in the space.