51 percent of consumers think soup should be come with another menu item.

With fall here and the weather starting to get cooler and cooler, it’s that time of the year when food preferences begin to change. Some heavier and more comfort style foods make their way back to the tables of American diners. One of the more popular foods that show up in the fall and winter months is soup. Whether it’s a hearty soup with lots of meat and vegetables, or a broth based soup with a lot of flavor and fewer ingredients, it’s hot, tasty, and provides some comfort on chilly days and nights.

Soup Sells

Almost half (46 percent) of American consumers visit certain restaurants specifically because they enjoy the soup, according to a Technomic consumer trend report. Other findings within the Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report include:

  • Half of consumers (51 percent) say it is important that soup can be bundled with other items; 60 percent say the same regarding salad. Additionally, 58 percent of consumers even say that they are more likely to order soup as a combo meal than as a single item.
  • Fifty percent of consumers want to try new and unique soups. Further, more than a third (35 percent) of consumers say they purchase soup because they want to try new varieties; 21 percent say the same for salad.
  • Ethnic and innovative soups, such as Asian-style ramen and chilled varieties, are poised for growth, particularly among younger consumers. Kale, chopped and grain-based salads are trending forward at the restaurant-chain level and in the retail space.

"Soup and salad are traditional favorites, but consumers still expect variety and something different on the menu," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. "Catering to consumers' need for variety when dining out — while also striking a balance between craveable, healthy, and innovative yet familiar offerings that justify price points — will be important in driving soup and salad purchases. Operators may also have room to ramp up soup and salad orders by promoting their appeal across dayparts and meal parts."

Soup Deals

In the bakery café environment, soups will usually do best as part of a combo meal. While great soup can stand alone on the menu, American diners generally prefer soup with something else.

Obviously salads and sandwiches match up well and represent the traditional soup combo pairings. But jour combos don’t have to be bland. And sometimes certain combos go together better than others. Experiment with combinations.

For soup to remain the star of the show, pair it with salads that aren’t too heavy or overbearing. Just a few select additions to whatever greens you decide to use and a light dressing like vinaigrette. Buttery homemade biscuits and rolls, or nice, crusty, artisan, whole-grain breads are perfect for soaking up the soup and making sandwiches.

As an alternative to the classic soup and sandwich, a wrap pairing with a nice soup will work as well, especially for health-conscious consumers who perceive wraps to be the healthier alternative to sandwiches.      

Hearty fall soups

Saveur.com suggests that nothing comforts a person more than a classic chicken noodle soup. The simple classic stands as the go-to soup for the cold months, as well as the staple home remedy for the common cold.

In addition to chicken noodle, Saveur recommends the following soups for great fall meals. Bought from a supplier or made from scratch in your café, these soups and their variations will have customers coming to your shop to get out of the cold. Find recipes online, or use as a starting point to create your own signature soups for the season.

  • Chickpea and pasta soup is a meal in and of itself. Change up vegetables and pasta styles for variety.
  • Classic tomato soup can be dressed up in a number of ways including bacon. Pair with a grilled cheese for a classic comfort combo.
  • French onion soup represents robust and gourmet timelessness. Onions, bread and melted cheese are the main components.
  • Fava bean soup with pureed and fried base of tomatoes, garlic and onions before the beans are added.