The Original Soupman
The Original Soupman Logo
|Retail, Foodservice, Catering|
|Founded||2005 - 259 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019|
Number of locations
|Parent||Gallant Brands, Inc.|
The Original Soupman is a chain of soup restaurants run by Ali "Al" Yeganeh, modeled after Yeganeh's original restaurant Soup Kitchen International, which was a well-known soup restaurant at 259-A West 55th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue), in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
The 55th Street location was closed in 2004, with the windows soaped over. Yeganeh, however, kept the lease on the shop while he looked to expand into a broader market. This led to the formation of the Original Soup Man chain and eventually led to the reopening of Soup Kitchen International, which now bears the name "Original Soup Man" like all of Yeganeh's other restaurants. Yeganeh was born in Iran.
"The Original Soup Man" franchises have opened in various cities throughout the United States and Canada, including four in Manhattan. The soups are made in Yeganeh's industrial kitchen in Linden, New Jersey. Franchises are provided with some 45 soup varieties in 8 lb (3.6 kg) bags available in rotation. Chains participating in subfranchising the soups include Ranch*1 and Cold Stone Creamery. On March 3, 2008, the first Original Soup Man franchise on a college campus was opened in the Russell House University Union at the University of South Carolina. This venue closed near the end of spring 2011.
Reportedly, the strictness popularized by the original location need not necessarily be followed but Yeganeh has banned any Soup Nazi references by franchises and their staff while on the job and has strongly encouraged his franchise owners to avoid references to Seinfeld in their promotions. (However, his marketing contains at least two Seinfeld references, including the phrase "Soup for you!" and a mention of the show on the back of his packaged soup offerings.) Yeganeh accepts media inquiries, but his "media rules" forbid mention of "the 'N' word" (Nazi), personal questions, or follow-up questions. Interviews are conducted only via e-mail. Despite Yeganeh's contempt for the Soup Nazi character, it was announced on July 22, 2015 that Soupman, Inc. teamed up with actor Larry Thomas, who portrayed the character on Seinfeld, to promote Yeganeh's soups across America.
Soup Kitchen International Inc., "The Original Soup Man," and Yeganeh announced on April 22, 2005, that a retail line of "heat-n-serve" soups would be available in May at select grocery stores. There are now five different variations available made by SoBe Beverages and supervised by Al Yeganeh. The soups are packaged in 15 oz. ‘Grab-N-Go’ clear packages. Since its launch in May 2005, "The Original SoupMan" line of soups is sold in 14 states and over 7,000 grocery stores across the United States and Canada.
Fame via Seinfeld
Yeganeh was the inspiration for the "Soup Nazi" character in the eponymous episode of the NBC television sitcom Seinfeld. Yeganeh was born in Iran and had lived in Khorramshahr prior to moving to the US. It is in this episode where Yeganeh, renamed "Yev Kassem", is fictionally portrayed as the tyrannical purveyor of his soups, making all of his customers follow a strict set of rules if they wish to successfully procure a bowl of one of his coveted soups. Kassem is portrayed by Larry Thomas and makes two appearances in the series. For the episode, Thomas was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, which he lost to Tim Conway for Coach.
According to writer Spike Feresten, Jerry Seinfeld and several members of the production team went to Soup Kitchen International for lunch weeks after "The Soup Nazi" aired. Upon recognizing Seinfeld, Yeganeh did a "triple take" and then went into a profanity-filled rant about how the show had "ruined" his business and demanded an apology. This was ironic since whenever the show ran, his normally long line would extend around the corner due to increased demand for his soups. Seinfeld gave what Feresten describes as "the most insincere, sarcastic apology ever given". Obviously having seen the episode, Yeganeh then bellowed, "No soup for you!" and ejected them from the restaurant.
Seinfeld was not the first time that Mr. Yeganeh was referenced in film. According to Nora Ephron's DVD commentary, the first pop culture reference to Yeganeh (though not by name) is mentioned in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle. In the film, a magazine writer discusses writing a story: "This man sells the greatest soup you have ever eaten, and he is the meanest man in America. I feel very strongly about this, Becky; it's not just about the soup."
- Zagat site
- The Daily Princetonian
- "For Press". originalsoupman.com. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- See the Season 7 DVD extras, in which during the episode's "Inside Look", Feresten recounts this story.
- Page 130, Seinfeldia by Jennifer keishin Armstrong