Strengthening Your Soup Game
QUESTION From: Tracy in Philly
”Wondering if you could share your most popular soups. I serve cream of tomato and New England clam chowder every day, but rotate other flavors. Looking to refresh my repertoire.”
The orig dish loved by early settlers, Soup is hot again (no pun intended) and I think you’re going to be seeing more and more soups and, what I call, “protein combo bowls” (think animal proteins mixed with quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, etc.. like the “Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl” at First Watch) on menus across the country in 2019. If you put in the time to do just a couple of them really really well, they could be significant sales drivers for you.
Your featured soup(s) should complement your specific concept.
Going outside your wheelhouse, while risky, could provide your guests with something refreshing and unexpected. Just make sure that if you don’t have an incredibly authentic recipe, that tasted by and approved by people who have grown up eating it, you leave the more regional soups to those who are already cooking that food...or at least to those who are cooking it better than you.
I’d leave the ramen, pho, khorake loobia sabz and curry to the experts. Chances are, if someone is looking for that specific type of soup, they’ll go to a place that specializes in that type of cuisine anyway.
That being said, there’s no harm in trying to integrate some dishes outside of your ethnic zone if you know what you’re doing… just be super mindful of your demographic.
There are lots of soups that have made the crossover to more mainstream / more continental menus such as:
Jewish Matzo Ball Soup
Italian Escarole Soup / Wedding Soup
Mexican Tortilla Soup
Caribbean Snapper Soup
Thai Tom Yum…
Do you have a traditional Chix soup? Although changing the recipe of an existing menu item could be tricky… if not ill advised (If it ain’t broke...) I’ve often found that tweaking the recipe for a slow moving item and changing its name often works - especially when it comes to chicken soup.
It’s amazing how often shortcuts are taken (like not keeping noodles separate from liquid prior to pick-up) and/or how many ppl use pre-packed/bagged product and sell it as “homemade chicken soup”. Shortcutting Chix Soup is like using powdered mashed potato mix or flakes in lieu of peeling, cutting and boiling fresh potatoes. So… if you had chicken soup on the menu and slowly simmering a few whole birds for more than a few hours wasn’t part of the recipe, I’d say it’s a menu item worth re-visiting and re-working.
The only soups I’ve ever put on a menu that have done as well as (or better than) a hearty traditional slow steeped bone broth chix soup are:
1. Lobster or Tomato Bisque
2. Vegan Chili (See the simple recipe below. Adjust for volume. Play around w/ it and sub different beans - I like 1/3 garbanzo, 1/3 northern white and 1/3 dark red kidney)
3. Chix Pot Pie Soup (Which is always an especially big hit with younger guests).
When preparing the Chicken Pot Pie Soup, simply prepare as you would chicken pot pie filling with extra cream and top the cup or bowl with same sized pastry dough disk. Step it up a notch with your logo, initials or some other design on the disk or...use different cutter shapes in lieu of a disk.
How is your Cream of Tomato selling?
Is it from scratch?
If it is, I’d consider keeping it as simple and as fresh as possible (e.g., butter, onions, carrot, celery, garlic, flour, chix or veg stock, san marz or slightly oven rstd plum toms, paste, sugar and cream) and changing the name to “Tomato Soup” or “Tomato Bisque”. “Cream of Tomato” sounds a bit dated and conjures images of canned soup and 1970’s Betty Crocker-style cookbooks.
Looking for a few other soup ideas? These links might provide some additional inspiration:
Let me know what you decide on and what ends-up selling best,