Although soup is already a staple on many restaurant menus, some significant new trends are showing the versatility and opportunities that exist with this classic dish.
For example, a new Mintel report noted that consumer emphasis on fresh, natural food is carrying over into the soup category, which will likely raise the bar in terms of what consumers expect at restaurants. Other top trends influencing soup include complex flavor combinations and unique menu pairings.
Operators who menu soup with on-trend twists can elevate it to a core menu item and boost sales by generating excitement, and here are a few ways to do just that.
Not just for lunch
Yes, soup is a lunchtime staple, but it's fast becoming an option for other dayparts as well.
Pea Soup Andersen's, a casual-dining chain with two locations in California, serves soup all day. The chain offers its famous pea soup base with a variety of toppings such as bacon bits, diced ham and grated cheddar cheese—making it a hearty choice for any time of day.
Additionally, soup’s versatility makes it a natural fit for brunch, a daypart that many operators are focusing on. Gertrude’s, a casual concept in Baltimore, offers three soups on its brunch menu: Maryland crab soup, cream of crab soup and vegetarian chili.
This kind of flexibility not only gives diners more options, but it also serves as an inspiration for chefs, notes Abigail Covington, head of content marketing at Chicago-based analytics firm Food Genius. Operators can easily create signature soups by adding fresh ingredients or unique garnishes to soups already in inventory.
Bring on the bundle
Although soup, particularly in a bowl-size portion, can be showcased as an entree, many operators may find that it's advantageous to bundle soup with other menu items—especially if the bundle heightens the flavor profile of the meal.
The soup-and-salad combination is standard, but classic soups can also accompany non-traditional menu options. Applebee’s, for example, includes four soups on its lunch combo menu; the soups can be combined with any other lunch item, including sandwiches, mac and cheese or larger entrees.
Mintel also notes that consumers are responding well to a "soup flight," which pairs several soup varieties side-by-side in small bowls.
Today’s diners seek healthy options that aren't ho-hum in flavor profile. For example, Lizzy Freier, menu analysis editor at Chicago-based research firm Technomic, says fast-casual sandwich chain Potbelly introduced a lentil, kale and turkey sausage soup that's popular because all three of those ingredients have a "health-halo" effect. Promoting other nutrition trends, such as bone broth, can be beneficial as well. "Operators can incorporate superfoods and lighter broths to appeal to today's diners," she says.
As more diners look to restaurants for innovative, seasonal and fresh options, soup is likely to keep gaining more time in the spotlight. Fortunately, expanding your soup choices doesn't mean stretching your labor costs. Check out the Golden Ladle line of soups from Kerry Foodservice for a variety of ready-to-serve soups with easy boil-in-bag preparation. Having a starring lineup of soups can help any operation to boost customer loyalty and increase traffic.
This post is sponsored by Kerry Foodservice