Soup is a menu combo workhorse: It’s warm and filling, and different varieties can be served up in a meal that plays off a theme, a dietary preference or just about anything else.
Previously, combining soup and salad was the go-to way for operators to keep meals light while boosting profitability. But nowadays, restaurants are expanding on this classic lunch combo. Here are four ways operators can attract diners with soup combos.
1. Sandwiches and wraps
Signature sandwiches and customizable wraps make this combo a go-to for many diners. It provides a more filling meal than soup and salad combos and satisfies many consumer preferences. According to Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad report, 45% of consumers say they would be likely to purchase a combination meal featuring soup and a sandwich or wrap.
Beyond classic pairings such as grilled cheese and tomato soup, sandwich and soup combos give operators the chance to experiment with global flavors (pairing chicken enchilada soup with a torta, for instance) as well as plant-based options, such as offering a vegetarian minestrone soup with a hummus-avocado-veggie wrap.
Offering a trio of options is another way to refresh classic meal combos. Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad report finds that 20% of consumers say the reason they don’t order soup is because it’s not filling enough to eat as a main meal—so ordering soup as a part of a three-course combo is the perfect antidote. In fact, 51% of consumers say that it’s important or extremely important that the soup they order be bundled with other items.
Like soup and sandwich combos, this option allows for easy riffing on menu themes. Tuscan kale soup with an Italian sub and a Caprese salad is perfect for a classic Italian experience, while Thai chicken soup, a banh mi sandwich and a miso-ginger salad is a great option for those seeking trending Asian flavors.
This format also lends itself to the customization trend— operators could offer diners three choices from a list of soups, salads and half sandwiches, for example. Similarly, offering a “flight” of soups with smaller portions of three different soups could tempt diners who are interested in trying different flavors.
Who doesn’t love something sweet to end their meal? About 35% of consumers say they eat dessert after lunch, while 34% say they eat it as a mid-afternoon snack, according to Technomic’s 2017 Dessertreport. For these consumers, offering soup as a paired item with a treat is a sweet opportunity.
With this combo, diners can enjoy soup as a lighter lunch option and save the bundled dessert to have a pick-me-up during the afternoon. It’s a strategic way to boost sales of both categories. Best of all, operators don’t necessarily have to craft unique and creative pairings—simply offering a “pick two” option where the choices are a bowl of soup and a baked good, slice of cake, brownie, etc. is sufficient. This strategy requires no additional labor or menu development, and the benefits can be big.
4. Soup as a side
Finally, soup doesn’t always have to be the main event. It can also be offered as a side dish as part of a combo meal—in place of fries, for instance. This option offers a comforting bowl of soup as an accompaniment to the meal, which can help tempt some diners—25% of people in Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad report say they don’t order soup is because they don’t want to pay extra to order it as a side item.
In that same report, 40% of consumers say it’s important that they can substitute soup for sides that can come with entrees, so making it an option on menus can be beneficial to operators who want to boost soup sales.
The New Lunch Combo Is More than Soup and Salad.
Soups make a good healthy side item for entrees and pair well with a variety of things on spring and summer menus. While guests want to see soup paired with other items, they don’t always want the traditional approach. Whether you’re serving a classic combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup or adding Wisconsin cheese soup and local craft beer pairings to your happy hour specials, we’re here to help you think about menuing soup in ways that drive more traffic. Find new ways to menu soup >>