|Headquarters||San Diego, California, USA|
Number of locations
|104 (October 2016)|
|Products||Salad, Soup, Stew, Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Pasta, Muffins, Soft Serve, Fruits, Vegetables, and other buffet and vegan options.|
|Parent||Garden Fresh Restaurant Corporation & Sun Capital Partners, Inc.|
Souplantation is a United States-based chain of all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurants. The first Souplantation opened in 1978 in San Diego, California, where the company is headquartered. The company was incorporated as Garden Fresh Corp. in 1983. The company went public in 1995 but was taken private in 2004. Outside of Southern California, Souplantation operates under the name Sweet Tomatoes. The company is owned by Garden Fresh Restaurant Corporation.
The first Souplantation restaurant opened on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego in 1978. It was the idea of Dennis Jay who was a bartender at the Bull & Bear in El Cajon. He had a dream and talked with two friends of his. One was an attorney and the other a bail bondsman. This restaurant and a second one were purchased in 1983 by Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., founded by Michael Mack to operate the chain.
In 2005, an affiliate of the private investment firm Sun Capital Partners purchased Garden Fresh and with it the restaurant chains. As of October 2016, 104 locations remain in operation throughout the United States.
Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants specialize in fresh salads and soups, offering a large salad bar, homestyle soup, pasta, as well as bread, muffins and pizza, baked on the premises. They are open for lunch and dinner.
The salad bar includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, croutons and other salad condiments, as well as a few prepared featured salads, which change monthly. Other sections include up to eight soup selections, a small bakery offering muffins and pizza foccacia, a pasta section with a few different pasta and sauces and a dessert section offering fruit, puddings, and soft-serve ice cream. Featured menu items are rotated monthly often along a theme, while the standard offering remains unchanged. Themes, named according to the type of food being served, include Asian, Greek, Italian and Customer Favorites.
The company's home city of San Diego often serves as a test market for trying new ideas and innovations, and is home to Souplantation's corporate offices. For example, some Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes locations are open Sunday mornings for breakfast. In 2011 the company launched its first quick-serve restaurant, called Souplantation Express, in Carlsbad, California.
In mass media
In October 2016, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, the owner/operator of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time Garden Fresh was nearly $175 million in debt. In January 2017 the company said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy later that month, following a sale of the company's assets to New York-based private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management L.P. and its partners. Garden Fresh anticipates it will wind up with "between 90 and 104 restaurants" and "significantly less debt".
- "Souplantation is putting stock in a piping hot future", Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1995
- "Garden Fresh completes move to private ownership", San Diego Union-Tribune, March 11, 2004
- "Company Overview of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.". Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
- Company website (2008-11-10). "Soup Plantation". Our Company. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
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- "Investors buy Sweet Tomatoes, Souplantation". South Florida Business Journal. 2005-10-21. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- "Souplantation Express celebrates 1 year", Souplantation blog, January 13, 2012
- "E. coli outbreak linked to OC restaurant", ABC Money, April 3, 2007
- "O.C. closes restaurant tied to E. coli cases", Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2007
- "Two More E. Coli Cases Reported In Orange County", San Diego 10 News, April 8, 2007
- "Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp Files for Bankruptcy". Wall Street Journal. October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- De Crescenzo, Sarah (January 10, 2017). "Struggling Garden Fresh to Sell Assets to N.Y. Investment Firm". San Diego Business Journal. Retrieved 11 January 2017.