Niedlov’s Breadworks in Chattanooga, TN, began in 2002 as a simple purveyor of handcrafted artisan breads. Over the years the shop has come to offer a variety of sweets and lunch items, including soups and sandwiches. During the summer of 2007, John Sweet, owner and head baker of Niedlov’s, began offering three kinds of sandwiches: roast beef, chicken salad and tuna salad. “Originally when we set it up we were just going to do sandwiches, obviously to feature our breads,” Sweet says. “But folks just kept asking for soup, especially that first winter of us offering sandwiches.”
So during the winter of 2008, Niedlov’s started offering soups, too. “One of the reasons we didn’t want to do soup was because if we were going to offer soup, it would have to be consistent with the rest of our scratch-made, everything in-house type of products,” Sweet says. “We wanted to do everything from scratch, so that took a little bit of investment on our part to figure it all out.”
At first, because Niedlov’s was already serving chicken salad sandwiches, all of the soups were chicken stock-based. But new opportunities and demand led to more varieties. “One of the things we do for the chicken salad is we get whole chickens,” Sweet says. “We roast them ourselves and pull all the meat off the chickens. So initially our soups were chicken stock-based, because we were able to stock our own bones, and had plenty of stock to offer soup. Since then we’ve branched out. We have a butcher next door now, so we started getting pork bones from them for other bases. Another evolution was that we had a lot of vegetarians coming in, so we purchased vegetable stock as the base for those kinds of soups.”
So if you find yourself with both soups and sandwiches on your menus, how exactly do you go about packaging them together into a combo? Niedlov’s full-sized sandwiches, with 4 oz of meat and 2 oz of cheese, are fairly large and difficult for the average customer to eat in one sitting. “So if we are going to offer soup, we thought about offering half sandwiches,” Sweet says. “But we were afraid people were going to start wanting to just buy half sandwiches, and we didn’t want to open that ‘Pandora’s box. ‘ So then we tried to figure out, ‘Well, what else could we make a smaller sandwich on?’ So then we thought of our little Brotchen hard rolls. That kind of made sense to offer a half-portion of meat and half-portion of cheese, and it would go well with a bowl of soup.”
The other thing to figure out beforehand is the portion size of soup to offer in the combination special. Niedlov’s has two sizes of soups: a cup and a bowl. The cup is one ladleful (about 5 oz) and the bowl is two (about 10 oz). Sweet decided to offer the full bowl size of soup with the soup and sandwich special.
When Niedlov’s first started offering this kind of combination, it was highly successful, but usually just when it was mentioned in an advertisement-style post on Facebook, as the combo wasn’t listed on the menu. “The folks for whom that special really resonated — a lot of times they’d come back and ask for ‘this,’” Sweet says. “We were usually quick to oblige when someone had a special request that wasn’t very outside the box. We’re glad to do it.”
But now that the special has picked up steam and is a popular choice year-round, the “Soup and Brotchen Sandwich” is a regular part of Niedlov’s menu, listed at $7.99. The shop offers two soups every day through the cooler months, and one per day during the warmer rest of the year.
Offering this kind of a deal can help increase the popularity of both your sandwiches and soups, but it does take a certain degree of planning and preparation to be successful.