At one point in my life I made homemade soup daily. At first it was an unwelcome chore done early in the morning for our café. We no longer have the café. I miss making soup. Moreover, I miss people’s reaction to a delicious and creative soup that I made. I miss the chopping, stirring and blending. One thing I learned along the way about making a good soup – it started with the onion.
Soups Were Not Our Intended Feature Product
Food entrepreneurs like I once was might be interested in the way soup built my business. The prior owner offered it on the menu but served premade, reheated varieties. When the weather cooled, it became more difficult to maintain daily stock for our growing customer base. Plus I started noting costs of ingredients for some of these soups. I realized I could provide my own solution. When I found a little book for $2.50 at a thrift store called “200 Super Soups” I knew I was ready to take control.
I started by reading the recipe book. First I tagged recipes that included ingredients we already stocked at the café for our wraps and salads. Then I had to ensure our small kitchen had the right equipment for the recipe too. Then took note of outlier ingredients to watch for when shopping for the café. I took advantage of produce specials. My goal was to minimize the money and space needed for additional ingredients. The profit margins were phenomenal by doing these things.
Over time, we developed a routine. This routine required a lot of onions. Each morning after I started the coffee makers, I started chopping and sauteing onions. Rarely did I find a recipe that didn’t call for that step. We had Mushroom/Meatless Monday, Tomato/Tato Tuesday, Wedding Soup Wednesday, Anything Goes Thursday and French Onion Friday. With this r
outine, we created a following.
Soups Became Our Niche
We took advantage of social media to reach our customers regularly. I posted daily on our social media page about the soups and took note of feedback from customers. People started looking for those posts when making lunch plans. Posts were not just promotion but informational as well. I might note some trivia about the ingredients I was using. If a recipe could easily be made vegan or gluten free, I would do so and promote those aspects in my post. Turns out my potato soups appealed to those with special diets. It helped us reach a new segment of customers.
As the weather warmed our first spring in business, people started asking, “Will you still do soups in summer?” My recipe book came in handy for chilled soups too. The followers who had tried and liked the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew were open to trying these as well. Since many of them were made with fruit and yogurt we already had on hand to make fresh smoothies, this was also an easy transition. Our customers loved the summer treat but still ordered the hot soups too.
French Onion Friday
Serving French Onion soup came about as a way of using up certain products in our inventory. A wine company representative suggested it to remedy wine loss in bottles we opened to serve just a glass. We always dated such bottles to ensure
fresh product for wine drinkers. You might guess that we preferred to start the weekend with fresh stock. Thursdays I would pull the partial bottles of red and white wine to make the wine broth in which the onions baked. This soup also allowed me to bulk up my onion order and earn a lower price per pound.
Fridays always started with the onion. In fact, they didn’t start with any less than 8 huge onions. My customers were not happy if they didn’t get their onion soup on Friday. More than once, someone made a reference to a character from the Seinfeld sitcom when referring to me if I ran out. I had to laugh at their reaction. It all started with the onion.
No More Soup for Me…For Now
Nearly a decade has passed since I was the soup queen of Grove City, Ohio. Living in Florida, I find it hard to justify making soup (why do I not think of the chilled soups more often?). Especially since I now feed two, not twenty. I still have my little recipe book for when I make soup again. We shouldn’t forget what a great source of fresh vegetables a soup can be. Making soup is a great way to use up produce before its not fresh enough to eat too. I always keep my pantry stocked with onions because I know when I am ready, it will all start with the onion.