It’s simple: diners love soup, especially in winter. Research from food and foodservice industry research and consulting firm Technomic shows that “many consumers go to restaurants specifically because they enjoy the soups or salads there. They are particularly attracted to premium ingredients.” An appealing soup menu can drive loyalty: 46 percent of diners visit restaurants just because they like the soup there.
Also, half of consumers want to try new and unique soups. And more than one-third of diners say they order soup from the menu specifically to try a new soup variety, according to research conducted by soup base producer Integrative Flavors.
Two chefs from the chilly upper Midwest offer thoughts about the authentic, hearty soups on their menus.
Nathan Docken, general manager and executive chef
The Buttered Tin, St. Paul, Minnesota’s Lowertown neighborhood
“Soup gives us an opportunity to be creative and improvisational. We have a little bit of fun with everything we’re doing, and don’t use anything from a bag—because where’s the fun in that?”
Signature Soup: Tomato Basil, served with grilled cheese croutons
Ingredients include San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, yellow onions, red peppers and butter and a “secret ingredient” — feta cheese. “The soup is a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy and a little bit of everything,” Docken says. “It’s easily our most popular soup. I couldn’t take it off the menu even if I wanted to.”
Todd MacDonald, executive chef
The Red Cow, three locations in the Twin Cities
“We call ourselves a 21st century tavern, and we want to make sure people are very satisfied and comfortable. We offer simple, familiar foods that are elevated by using the best quality ingredients. If someone orders a bowl of our soup, I want them to leave happy and satisfied.”
Signature Soup: Beer Cheese, served with popcorn garnish
“We use a lot of beer and a lot of cheese in this soup. We use Summit Pale Ale, a local beer, because its bitterness and sharpness creates balance in the recipe. The quality of the beer translates to the quality of the soup—you can’t use Bud Light for this dish. We use a classic Midwestern garnish, popcorn, which has to be added at the last second, right as the soup is on its way to the table.”