When it comes to comfort food, there’s one food that always makes the cut — soup. Hot soups like chicken noodle, minestrone, and beef barley are time-honored classics and cold soups like borscht, gazpacho, and chilled cucumber soups are perfect for cooling off during the hot weather. It’s also an easy dish to serve en masse at delis, coffee shops, and other smaller food retailers — you can make a big batch, put it under a warmer, and still offer customers a warm, nourishing meal. And given that Americans eat over 10 million bowls of soup a year, it’s clear that soups are here to stay. Indeed, in 2016, over 30% of delis said they wanted to focus on enhancing their soup stations. Offering food can help draw in more customers and increase revenue and soup can be an inexpensive option for quick eating establishments.
Why Is Soup Such a Popular Option?
Soup is one of those things you can make an enormous batch of — with pretty much anything in your refrigerator — and walk away from. With many soups, the longer it sits and simmers, the better it tastes. It can be a low cost but high quality option. Soup can also often be offered at a lower price point than say, sandwiches or other entrees, but because of the high water content, keeps you satisfied and well hydrated.
Furthermore, soup retains the vitamins and minerals of the vegetables that cook in the broth — if you boiled vegetables or steamed them, all those nutrients would go out with the water. And, nice hot soups of any kind on a cold day can warm you right up from the inside out.
Soup is such a versatile option that it’s possible to find one that everyone likes.
What Should I Stock My Soup Station With?
If you’re thinking about setting up a soup station in your deli, cafe, or coffee shop, you want to make it as tantalizing as possible. Having a variety of soups (two to three) is usually a good option, complete with ladles and warming dishes, to keep everything piping hot.
Having croutons, oyster crackers, or small sides of bread to go with the soup is also always a nice touch — and many crackers do come individually packages, so customers can simply pick them up and go. Salt, pepper, and hot sauce might also be nice touches to include at the soup station.
Practically speaking, you’ll also need spoons, soup containers of varying sizes, lids, and napkins for customers to carry the soup in — whether they’re eating in or taking out. Keep signs that advertise what kind of soup is available that day with prices front and center for customer convenience.
And, depending on how fancy you want to get, you can even offer little bowls of garnishes, such as parsley, sour cream, onions, or other fresh herbs to really put your station above and beyond.
What Should I Know About Creating a Soup Station?
Think about the area you’re serving. Certain cultures might gravitate towards a specific kind of soup — for example, matzoh ball soup or pozole might be quite popular in some neighborhoods, but not in others. And women, for example, are twice as likely to order soup for lunch compared to men, so if you are based in a male-dominated area, try and estimate your demand.
Keep at least one standard favorite (chicken noodle, potato leek, tomato, etc.,) of hot soups on hand and try one more adventurous soup. You’ll appeal to a wider customer base that way.
Be sure to keep the area neat and tidy — wipe up drips, keep an eye on soup levels, and make sure that the soup is staying hot. Be sure to restock materials as needed. Make sure that everything is clearly marked and labeled.
Hot soups are a great way to introduce food to a quick eating establishment that are sure to please a variety of palates. You can be as creative or traditional as you like and can give yourself the opportunity to expand your retail horizons.