Monday, December 20, 2010

Rant: Cheeseboy, Where Is The Transparency?

Last week, I reviewed the new Cheeseboy in Boston's South Station, finding the food to be tasty but the service lacking.  I had questions about the sourcing of their ingredients, and have received some information in that regard, though the information has not been fully satisfying.

Almost none of their ingredients are local, except for some of their cheese, and it does not appear that any of their ingredients are organic.  The ingredients are primarily obtained from large farms, that cater to multi-unit restaurants.  Though it is claimed that items like their turkey and ham are "all natural," we also know that term has no real definition and is not regulated by the FDA.  So it says little about the actual nature of the turkey and ham.   

Cheeseboy also suffers from a lack of transparency for many ingredients, allegedly due to "exclusivity" and "competitive reasons," yet those reasons seem puzzling when taken in totality. For example, I was told that their cheese is sourced from Cabot and Land O’Lakes.  Now, to me, the cheese would seem to be the most important part of the sandwich, so if you were worried about competition, you would not reveal the source of your cheese. Why then conceal the source of your meat, claiming "competitive reasons?"   On a similar point, why reveal that the base of your tomato soup is Campbell’s soup, but hide the source of your meat?

They also choose not to reveal the source of their bread, though I was informed that it is not locally produced. It is claimed that the "...bread is a proprietary recipe, made without preservatives.." and as it is "exclusive to Cheeseboy,.." they "decline to name the baker,..."

This lack of transparency is disappointing, especially in a time when ingredient sourcing is very important to a growing number of consumers.  People are less willing to trust vendors as to the quality of a product, without delving deeper into its origin, ingredients, and methods of production.  Those concerned about sustainability and the environment have an even greater desire for transparency.  Many restaurants have realized this and become very open as to the source of their ingredients.  They do not worry that this information will place them at a competitive advantage.  

Is this lack of transparency more of an issue for chain restaurants?  Who actually is the competition for Cheeseboy?  Would Cheeseboy suffer from revealing the source of their meat and bread?

I should note that the forthcoming Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese Truck, a potential competitor for Cheeseby, will be using at least some local ingredients, including breads baked in Cambridge and the well known Grillo’s pickles.

3 comments:

Justin said...

Do they claim to be local/organic? If not, why would you expect them to be? Just because "local" is very popular now doesn't mean every restaurant must source its ingredients from local businesses. And to be honest, the South Station Food Court would be one of the last places I would expect to find an organic locally sourced restaurant.

Richard Auffrey said...

No, they do not but I never said I expected them to be. I simply mentioned that fact, though it certainly would be better if they were local. There are people concerned about such matters and I posted to give them the information about this restaurant. The larger issue is the lak of transparency.

Robert Belley said...

Just found this article, and there is still a transparency issue. After 6 or more years in business they still can not offer any nutritional information on their products, referring to such as a "relatively complex undertaking". This initially leads me to a distrust issue with the company, especially concerning grilled cheese being only cheese, butter, bread(?). I myself can make a sandwich in my home and tell you exactly how many calories, grams of fat, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fiber would be in said sandwich. I'm guessing there is more than just the typical 3 sources in one sandwich, or, there is so much butter in the sandwich they're afraid people would be shocked at the nutritional content, or, laziness. From a response to a post on Facebook:

February 16, 2016
Cheeseboy: Kamila,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding our nutritional information. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have that calculated for our menu items. We agree that it is important to include in order to give our customers the facts they need to make informed choices. We are a very small team and it’s a relatively complex undertaking, so we have it on our project list with a goal to accomplish this by the first half of 2016. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience in the meantime.

Thanks!
Betsy Nguyen
Director of Marketing