Soup may be the last thing on your mind while you’re tossing pizzas and stuffing calzones, but what if we told you that some operators are currently selling as much soup as pizza? Take a moment to wipe the flour from your eyes, and we’ll tell you how it’s done.
Many people associate soup with cold weather, thinking it will only sell when it’s cold outside, but restaurateurs have proven on countless occasions that consumers love soup year -round. “Not everyone wants pizza for lunch,” says Jake Allmaras, co-owner and general manager of Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub (kaleidoscopepizza.com), in Medford, Oregon, which offers three customer favorites alongside a rotating special every day. “If we didn’t offer soups, it would definitely impact our sales.”
Soups are also serious business at Jackson, Mississippi-based Newk’s Eatery (newks.com), according to Alan Wright, vice president of marketing and franchise operations. “Two months before the spring and fall soup rotations, we all sit and sample dozens of soups to choose the right ones,” Wright says. “This past season we even invited our customers to vote for the newest soup addition to the menu.”
|Let’s Talk Soup|
A recent consumer survey conducted by Mintel revealed some insights into the soup purchasing behavior of consumers. While this data relates to soup purchased for the home, you’ll still get an idea of your customers’ soup preferences.
Wright says Newk’s soups bring in the same sales percentage as the pizzas, thanks to four rotating soups on offer every day and mix-and-match soup/salad/sandwich combos. “Any leftover soups are sold in our grab-and-go case, which also helps to bring in additional soup sales,” he says. The chain even has a condiment bar, where customers can load soups up with croutons, roasted garlic, cheese and more.
“Our soups will always be on our menu,” Wright adds. “They offer a point of difference from our competition.”
Are you sold on soups now? If so, here are some important points to keep in mind:
Variety is key.
Don’t expect to wow customers with the same soup 365 days a year. Your customers already enjoy variety through your pizzas, so they expect the same from any soups you may offer. A couple of daily favorites are fine, but rotate out some specials during the week to keep things interesting and keep patrons coming back.
Make a bold move.
Think of soup as another opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and introduce bold flavors that you may not otherwise be able to include on a traditional Italian menu. Consider hearty lentils, chili and stews; fragrant coconut curries and Thai-inspired soups; cream-based potato, cheese and seafood favorites; and health-conscious broth-based varieties packed with fresh vegetables. Popular soups at Newk’s include loaded potato, broccoli cheese and tomato basil, while Allmaras says that baked potato and Hungarian mushroom top the list at Kaleidoscope.
Keep the bottom line in mind.
While there are thousands of soup possibilities, certain ones will always remain fan favorites. Take a poll of your staff to see which types of soups they enjoy or run a contest and let your customers decide. But always think in terms of profitability. As you prepare your recipes, consider the time of year, ingredient availability and the overall food cost of the soups. Make sure to keep them affordable, especially when you first introduce them. (If you don’t have the staff to create in-house soups, several companies offer a variety of ready-made soups and can even custom-make soups according to your recipe.)
Offer combos—or don’t.
Wright favors combo offerings—Newk’s customers order far more soup/salad/sandwich combination meals than standalone soups, he says. But there’s no rule that says you must offer combos. Soups can be a great option for pizzeria operators who prefer to omit sandwiches from the menu entirely. Kaleidoscope has found success specializing in pizzas, calzones, soups and salads, skipping the sandwiches and combos. “We tried offering combinations a few years back, but we found that we didn’t really need them,” Allmaras says. “Our soups and salads are very reasonably priced, and our customers usually prefer to order them separately.”
Use soups to jump-start lunch sales.
Adding a soup offering can help remedy slow lunch sales. Statistics show that consumers are far more interested in soup at lunchtime than during dinner, so make sure to feature your soups on your lunch menu.
Don’t keep your soups a secret.
Train your servers to upsell soup to every table, and market your soup offerings on social media, on table tents and through email blasts and e-newsletters. Make sure your customers know about all of your new soups and about every combo possibility. Just as importantly, make sure you and your servers have tasted every combination in order to offer solid pairing suggestions to your customers.
Consider how tasty your breadsticks would be dipped into a hot bowl of broccoli cheese, or how your Caesar salad would complement some homemade minestrone. Your customers want to experience these combinations as much as you do, so grab a pot and put some soup on!
Heart-Healthy Potato Broccoli Soup
Recipe and photo courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission
4 14-oz. cans low-sodium broth (chicken,
In a large stockpot, bring broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the potato flakes, garlic powder and powdered milk (if desired). Allow mixture to sit while preparing broccoli. Prepare frozen broccoli according to package directions. Stir the broccoli into the potato mixture. Heat soup over medium heat until hot. If desired, just before serving, stir in lemon juice. Garnish each bowl of soup to taste.
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Recipe and photo courtesy of Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub
6½ lb. chicken, broiled and shredded
Place oil in a big soup pot and cook onions for 10 minutes, then add garlic and cook two minutes longer. Pour chicken stock in with the onions. Meanwhile, whisk together the masa and the 12 cups of water—make sure there are no clumps. Add the mix to the pot along with the enchilada sauce, cheddar cheese, salt, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then add the shredded chicken. Reduce heat and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and avocado.