According to Technomic, more than half of consumers (55%) say they order soup at restaurants at least sometimes, and 76% order salad with the same frequency. To continue to drive purchases and justify price points, soup and salad offerings will need to strike a balance as craveable but healthy, and innovative yet familiar.

"Soup and salad are traditional favorites, but consumers still expect variety and something different on the menu," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, Inc. "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 mealparts.

Across the foodservice spectrum, operators are capitalizing on the popularity of soup and salad. Restaurants offering soup and salad now face considerable competition from the retail segment; in fact, 54% of consumers told Technomic that they source soup from home at least once a week. It's vital for restaurant operators to emphasize uniqueness in order to keep soup and salad lovers coming through the door.

Interesting findings in Technomic’s “Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report” include:

• More than two-fifths of consumers strongly agree that they visit certain restaurants specifically  because they enjoy the soup (46%) and salad (43%) these restaurants offer.
• Half of consumers (51%) say it is important that soup can be bundled with other items; 60% say the same regarding salad. Additionally, 58% 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%) of consumers say they purchase soup because they want to try new varieties; 21% 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.