As the weather turns crisp and leaves begin to fall, soup season arrives. This time of year for restaurants presents an opportunity to warm customers’ hearts and boost sales.
Soup is an untapped area for many restaurants, according to Technomic’s Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report. “There is a great opportunity to leverage soup to drive sales. Compared to the last survey in late 2017, soup purchases have increased, and soup is now a greater traffic driver for restaurants [than salad].”1
Here are five key strategies to make the most of soup season.
Tip 1: Embrace Fall and Winter Flavors
When using seasonal produce and flavors on the menu, it’s important to highlight these limited-time items on the menu, according to Executive Chef Gerald Drummond.
“Calling out seasonal items on your menu demonstrates the operator is being relevant and using ingredients that are in season,” he said. “From a consumer standpoint, that’s something that they really look towards.”
Autumn and winter bring forth a variety of hearty soup and stew options featuring warming flavors and in-season produce.
In the fall, incorporate top varieties like Squash Soup, Turkey Chili, Baked Potato Soup, Beef Stew, and Chicken Tortilla Soup into your menu.2 Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen, Ready-to-Eat Soups, including Chicken Tortilla, Loaded Baked Potato, and Butternut Squash, can offer an on-trend, convenient, labor-saving option while providing scratch-made quality and superior flavor.
As soup season continues into the winter, a balanced mix of indulgent and healthy offerings emerges. “In the winter months, you’ll see more braised and rustic menu items,” according to Drummond. “You’re looking at dishes that are more hearty, dishes that stick to your ribs.”
Top winter soups include vegetable soup, lobster bisque, and potato soup.2 Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen Ready to Eat Lobster Bisque with Sherry can be used as a stand-alone dish or as the start to a variety of dishes, soup and otherwise.
With these soups and chilis, you’ll satisfy your customers’ desire for comforting, soul-warming fare.
Tip 2: Accommodate Special Diets & Health Preferences
There are a lot of opportunities to accommodate customer dietary preferences and set your establishment apart. Operators can provide a wide variety of special diets on their soup menus, from elimination diets like gluten-free and dairy-free to lifestyle preferences like keto-friendly and vegan.3 This is key for attracting younger consumers—nearly half would like to see restaurants offering at least one vegetarian soup option, and 3 in 10 call for more soups with plant-based proteins.1 Consider Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen Ready to Eat Soup Vegan Vegetable Soup, which is vegetarian, gluten-free, and only 100 calories per serving.
Health preferences are important as well; after the pandemic, consumers’ eating habits shifted to health-conscious choices.4 With a third of consumers believing soup is a healthful food choice,1 offering soups as a better-for-you option can be a winning strategy. Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen Ready to Eat Soup Southwest Vegetarian Chili works as a hearty vegetarian main or side dish.
Highlighting options on the menu that cater to these preferences with iconography is a great way to demonstrate to diners that meeting their needs is your priority.
Tip 3: Embrace Asian Flavors
Global flavors, ingredients, and dishes are a great way to bring uniqueness to your menu.
Asian-inspired soups, in particular, are an opportunity, according to Technomic, as consumers seek alternatives to Mexican, Italian, and Mediterranean flavors.1 Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, along with curry, miso, wasabi, and lemon grass, are trending for soups or salads.1
Asian soups top Datassential’s list of growing global varieties of soup, including Ramen, Wonton, Hot and Sour, Egg Drop, Miso, Tom Yum, and Tom Kha.5
Create an approachable, globally inspired soup by starting with Campbell’s® Condensed Tomato Soup and adding spices and ingredients to make it your own. For example, this Curried Lentil Tomato & Coconut Soup, starts with tomato soup but adds curried lentils, coconut milk, onions, and garlic.
Or, consider Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen Ready to Eat Wicked Thai Style Chicken and Rice Soup, which features a blend of chicken, rice, peppers, and aromatic spices that are enhanced with lemon grass, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, sliced chives, and rice. This ready-to-serve soup can also start as the launching off point for your own signature recipes.
Tip 4: Dish Out Favorites
One way to bring new flair to favorite dishes is by transforming them into soups.
Comfort food dishes turned into soups, such as chicken pot pie soup, beer cheese soup, and lasagna soup, are trending on menus.3 These soups typically take all of the flavors, spices, and key elements, including any protein, vegetables, or pasta, from a dish. You can also have fun with the soup garnishes and toppings. For example, Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Frozen Ready to Eat Jambalaya with Chicken and Sausage can be garnished with fresh herbs and peppers as well as mini cornbread.
This technique can also be used to elevate well-known global dishes. For example, converting trending Mexican dishes into soups, such as Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Mexican Street Corn Soup or Campbell’s® Culinary Reserve Baja Style Chicken Enchilada Soup. These dishes tap into two trends at once—global flavors and dishes as soup.3
Tip 5: Consider Portability
The rise of off-premise dining during the pandemic has made portability a sought-after trait for soups. Younger consumers, in particular, are drawn to the convenience of enjoying soup on the go.1 Offering soups that are easy to transport in takeout containers or insulated cups can enhance the dining experience for your on-the-move customers.
Soup’s On: Are You Ready?
By embracing the tips outlined above, you can craft a soup season menu that resonates with a wide range of patrons, whether seeking comfort, flavor, taste exploration, or health benefits. Get more inspiration from our Recipe Catalog and elevate your restaurant’s soup season this year.
1 Soup & Salad, Consumer Trend Reports, Technomic, 2022
2 Seasonality, Datassential, 2023
3 The World of Soup, Datassential
4 Serving Better Soups, Technomic, 2022
5 Most Popularly Menued Ethnic Soup Varieties, Datassential, Q2 2023