Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cooler weather results in more soups on the menu

The temperatures in Louisiana are getting cooler as we head into the winter months, which means diners are likely to opt for soup as opposed to salads. While soups can be found year -round on menus, the likelihood that you’ll move more cups and bowls of cream or broth-based goodness is strong.
In the heart of Cajun country, Prejean's in Lafayette is
known for their delicious, rich Gumbo. Cajun's often
like a scoop of potato salad or
a boiled egg with in their bowl of gumbo.
The types of soups found on menus in Louisiana are much different from those in other parts of the country. Gumbo is a staple on most menus here in the Bayou state, and corn and crab bisque, turtle, French onion and oyster and artichoke soups are other popular options for diners—but the possibilities are endless. Vegetable, minestrone, tortilla, chili and chowders are popular elsewhere and sometimes make an appearance on menus in Louisiana.

In a Facebook status update by the Louisiana Restaurant Association’sWe Live to Eat” page, “It’s chilly outside! What’s your favorite cold weather comfort food?”, some type of soup appeared in 78 percent of comments – 18 out of 23.

The profitability in soup is one that educated restaurateurs and chefs know not to overlook. If a batch of gumbo yields 50 servings at $5 a cup for example, the profitability after labor and ingredients results in a hefty profit. Other less expensive ingredients used to make a soup may result in an even larger profit. It’s a win/win for the restaurant and for consumers who are looking for value at a price point they can afford.

The biggest thing for many restaurants is to reduce food waste. Therefore using seafood shells, produce prep leftovers and bones for stock are best practices for getting the most from your food costs.

According to US Foodservice, soups, appetizers and small plates are a proven way for restaurant operators to increase average check size and profit margins. These offerings appeal to a wide variety of consumers. Combo meals that provide soup with a salad or sandwich are especially popular among women for example, while appetizers are irresistible to large groups going out for celebratory dinners or family outings. Women are big soup fans and according to Technomic, approximately 60 percent of them are more likely to purchase soup as part of a combo meal with a salad or sandwich than by itself.

Market research firm Mintel found that soup sales across grocery stores and foodservice outlets have reached approximately $5 billion. They predict that this year, soup sales will reach $6.3 billion and projected growth of more than 25 percent in just a few years.

Subcontinent Sweet Potato Soup won the top prize in the
Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest in 2010. Using Louisiana
Shrimp and Sweet Potatoes, home cook
Drue Deshotels  used curry, ginger and
coconut milk to give his dish an Asian infusion.
Ethnic soups are gaining popularity. At the top 250 chains, Mexican soup flavors dominate. Emerging chains and large independents are adding more Asian-inspired soups and research supports this trend with more than 40 percent of consumer saying they would like more ethnic soup options at restaurants.
Technomic’s 2009 Soup Trend Study found that more than 75 percent of consumers were dissatisfied with the breadth of soup choices at the restaurants they regularly visit. By promoting combos that include soup, many quick service restaurants have seen check averages increase and profit margins have improved. In 2011, Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers of which 62 percent now order soup at least occasionally during restaurant visits, up from 43 percent in a similar study in 2009.

Is soup on your menu part of your overall sales strategy, an afterthought or something you feel you have to offer?

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