Sponsored by Blount Fine Foods
Summer and fall are great times to offer soup, especially if the soup highlights the bounty of the season. Guests love seasonal foods, and operators are varying their soup offerings to keep pace with these changing tastes.
It is important to change the menu seasonally to keep customers engaged, says Dave Jurena, owner of The Soup Market, which operates five locations in the Milwaukee area. “In the Midwest most people don’t want anything that reminds them of winter,” he says. “So we tend to do lighter soups in the summer.”
For example, he says, the menu features gazpacho, the tomato-based chilled soup, every day until late September. The Soup Market also menus other chilled soups including:
- Cucumber mint.
- Carrot, ricotta and dill.
- Watermelon mango gazpacho.
However, some guests still want hot soups, so The Soup Market also prepares what Jurena calls “summer-esque hot soups,” such as grilled Mexican corn soup and BBQ chicken chili. “These are put into our rotation as the weather warms up,” he says. “We don’t use corn out of season. We buy fresh, and we have a couple of really good corn soups.”
In the fall The Soup Market offers:
- Vegan curried acorn squash bisque.
- Pumpkin shrimp curry with butternut squash.
- Roast turkey and mashed potato garnished with stuffing and cranberries.
- Roasted butternut squash bisque.
There is a season
At Farmhouse in Los Angeles, executive farmer Nathan Peitso prepares a tomato soup that he learned from his mother and is inspired by German cuisine. “They have a very short season for tomatoes,” Peitso says. “So they are highly prized.”
During summer in Germany tomato soup is served at every lunch instead of salad, he says. This summer Peitso will serve a pureed tomato soup which begins with a vegetable stock. He strains off the ingredients and adds “a ton” of peeled tomatoes. Next he adds cream or butter, unless he is making a vegan version, and oregano. He strains the seeds and the pulp, adds a squeeze of lemon and serves it warm, not piping hot. “It’s thick, wonderful, tomatoey goodness,” he says.
In the fall Peitso plans to menu potato soup, and honey nut squash soup to highlight vegetables that grow at the end of summer. “They have velvety flavors, and they’re able to bridge the gap from fall soups into hearty winter soups.”
Other summer soup selections include:
At Zolo Grill in Boulder, Colo., Tortilla Soup is prepared with avocado, crispy tortilla strips, mushrooms, squash blossoms, queso panela, smoky tomato dry chile broth and poblano strips.
At District One in Las Vegas, Pho Veggie contains seasonal vegetables, pho broth and rice noodles.
At Panera Bread, Summer Corn Chowder is made with roasted corn and skin-on red potatoes simmered with sweet cream, poblano peppers and cilantro.
According to research firm Datassential, consumers say that seasonality is the most important factor in a limited time offer, or LTO. Some operators would like to vary their soup menus but do not have easy access to the ingredients or can't afford the added labor costs. In those cases, high-quality, flavorful prepared soups can help them keep pace with the seasons while keeping their customers satisfied.
“Restaurants never take soup off the menu,” says Bob Sewall, executive vice president of Blount Fine Foods in Fall River, Mass. “Whether it’s French onion soup or clam chowder, people are still eating soup.” They might switch from a creamy broccoli and cheese soup to a more broth-based vegetable-filled soup, however, he adds.
Blount summer selections include gazpacho, made with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeño peppers and cilantro. People want to eat light, Sewall says, but they still want to be satisfied, so operators often menu soup as an appetizer, or soup with salad as a “pick two” promotion.
Soups also can address health considerations. “When you look at nutrition, soup checks off a lot of boxes in today’s world,” he says. “It’s clean label, preservative-free. It can be organic and gluten-free.”
Some soups that are available year-round sell especially well in the summer. For example, Sewall says, Chicken Tortilla Soup, made with chicken, roasted corn, diced tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeño peppers, and thickened with tortilla chips is a big seller in the warmer months.
In the fall Blount offers Spiced Pumpkin Bisque, which includes sweet pumpkin puree blended with light cream, sweet potatoes and spices. Seafood tends to be a big seller later in the fall, especially among operators who offer delivery or catering, and merchandise it as a solution for family gatherings.
“We have a new Alaska king crab corn chowder that is phenomenal,” Sewall says. “It’s a higher-end soup which people aren’t making at home. It really sells during the holiday period.”
Whether cold or hot, soup is a great way to highlight the cornucopia of seasonal ingredients, and to keep customers interested with a changing menu.