Noodles & Co. Venturing Into Veggie Land With ‘Zoodles’

Health-conscious foodies — and those avoiding gluten — now have another option when looking for a fast-casual restaurant offering veggie fare: Noodles & Company is testing “zoodles” — spiralized zucchini — at some of its restaurants in an attempt to bring in carb-avoiding customers.

Noodles & Co. announced the new addition to its menu today, revealing that it is testing the zucchini noodles at select restaurants in Baltimore and Colorado.

Visitors at the test locations can ask to substitute their desired meal’s base noodle for zoodles for an extra $1.50.

Executives with the company say that the new option provides guests with a “lighter” noodle base for their meals, while attracting customers who follow “gluten-free and grain-free diets, or for those who just wish to change the way they approach vegetables and build healthier eating habits.”

The new option comes at a time when Noodles & Co. has struggled with slipping sales. The company’s first quarter 2017 financial results saw the chain record a net loss of $26.8 million. Comparable restaurant sales decreased 2% compared to the previous quarter.

The Next Kale?

The addition of zoodles to the menu comes as a way for the company to appeal to consumers ditching grain-based foods in search of what they perceive to be healthier options.

The emergence and growing popularity of noodles made from vegetables — you can use carrots, beets, cucumber, and other plants to create the spirals — seems to mirror the once high-demand for kale.

Whether or not consumers’ taste for zoodles is fleeting, only time will tell.

Gluten-Free?

While Noodles & Co. notes that the new vegetable noodles provide customers following a gluten-free diet another option, those who suffer a gluten allergy should still be cautious.

Consumerist has reached out to Noodles & Co. about whether the new meal will be certified gluten-free or if the company will be able to do so in the future.

In the past, some restaurants serving gluten-free options have not been certified. For instance, in 2012, Domino’s gluten-free crust received an “amber designation” by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

While the ingredients used by the company met NFCA standards and staff had received basic training on the topic, there was concern about cross-contamination in the prep kitchen.

NFCA warns “those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should ask questions and exercise judgment when dining at an establishment with an Amber Designation.”

Because Noodles & Co. deals primarily in grain-based ingredients, it’s likely that NFCA would come to a similar conclusion as it did with Domino’s. Consumerist has reached out to NFCA, we’ll update this post if we hear back.

It should be noted that Noodles & Co. includes a disclaimer on its website warning about allergies.

“Fair warning: if you’re highly allergic or intolerant to gluten, check with your doctor before dining here. We’re a noodle restaurant, after all. We simply have too much wheat and gluten present to be able to eliminate the cross contamination on our equipment and food prep areas. But if you’re gluten-sensitive or choose to avoid it for another reason, we have plenty of options to safely satisfy your appetite for global flavor.”