One of the most famous episodes of 20th century TV hit Seinfeld was about a soup restaurant with amazing soup but serious customer service issues. The episode was based on a real soup restaurant, and perhaps it’s no surprise that when that real life soup man tried to franchise, he didn’t get very far. Relying on a flash of fame without working out the details of the business led to failure. Zoup! is a different kind of franchise that worked first to perfect their franchise business model, including corporate owned locations to make sure it all worked.
Since 2010, Zoup! has been growing at an impressive pace. In 2010, there were 28 franchised and company-owned locations with sales totaling $12.6 million. 2012 bumped up business to 47 locations and $25.3 million, more than doubling revenue from the previous year. Zoup! is on track to build an empire of fresh soup fast casual restaurants across the United States and in Canada, with the first international location opened this year in Ontario. It’s all due to the time and effort spent perfecting the franchise system before taking it to franchisees. What started as a spice business that made soups for restaurants grew into a successful franchise business.
Giving serious thought to everything from price structures to management practices, the founders of Zoup! made sure to put in the time to make a successful soup fast/casual franchise, not just a one-off location that only could survive in the biggest American city. Zoup! was developed to work in smaller markets that are accessible for franchisees.
Soup is increasing in popularity right now, for a variety of reasons. Like cupcakes, soup is a nostalgic food that reminds people of their childhoods. It’s homey and comforting, but a lot of trouble — most people won’t cook a pot of soup when they want a bowl any more than they’ll bake up their own cupcake. So soup is a great focus for a restaurant, but success doesn’t come just from spotting a trend. The execution of the idea determines which of the trend-spotters will end up benefiting from the newfound popularity of a fashionable item. The winners will continue to succeed after the trend has peaked.
The secret to the success of Zoup! lies both in the product and the system behind it. The founders of Zoup! discovered that finding soup on restaurant menus was easy but finding great soup was very difficult. Many restaurants serve canned soup. Soup that evokes childhood memories, a warm, comfortable feeling, and thoughts of family doesn’t come out of a can, they found, it comes from fresh ingredients and lots of time working with taste testers to get it just right. So they spent years working with chefs and testers to perfect the recipes. They also worked to make sure the business side of things ran smoothly and efficiently so the business could be profitable.
Zoup! is the leader in the soup fast-casual category and is the only successful fast-casual restaurant of its kind in the country, which gives franchisees a huge opportunity. Instead of facing competition from hundreds of other similar fast-casual restaurants, Zoup! is doing something out of the ordinary.