Retail Foodservice

Soups and Sides: The Ultimate Partners


A growing number of consumers are eager to try new and exciting culinary experiences and are increasingly building meals out of components that allow them to customize their meals and sample multiple dishes.

For restaurant operators and retailers that offer prepared-foods programs, this presents an opportunity to position soups and sides as dishes that can be mixed and matched with each other or with other menu items. And by offering soups and sides featuring high-quality ingredients and on-trend preparations, operators can ensure that they are appealing to today’s consumer sensibilities.

The ideal side

Soups in particular are an ideal accompaniment for other menu items. Just over half (51%) of consumers say it’s important that a soup can be bundled with other items when they purchase it from a restaurant, according to Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad report. The report found that some consumers don’t find soups to be filling enough to eat as a main meal, which makes them an ideal pairing partner.

In addition, soups can be an important component of both lunch and dinner menus. Almost half (45%) of consumers say they’d be likely to purchase a combination meal featuring a sandwich or a wrap with soup, the Technomic report found, and at dinner, 29% of consumers say they are likely to order soup as a side dish.

Flavor trends

Consumer interest in global flavors and cuisines is also reflected in the soup category. The fastest-growing variety of soup in the past year was pozole, a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy. Sales of pozole were up 5%, according to Technomic’s first-quarter Soup Menu Trends research.

Other soups showing sales growth in the past year included Italian wedding soup, chicken vegetable soup and seafood bisque, all of which were up 3.8%, and French onion soup, up 2.9%.

Here are some tips for encouraging customers to pair up:

  • Offer a snack menu that includes high-quality soups and side dishes in addition to a menu of appetizers, encouraging customers to create their own meals.
  • Allow customers the flexibility to pair various soups and sides with smaller entree portions (such as the “You Pick Two” menu at Panera Bread offering a half sandwich with soup or salad).
  • Suggest thematic combinations such as a Mexican or Italian soup with an entree and/or appetizer from the same cuisine.
  • Get creative by suggesting new pairings. A grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup is an obvious choice, but think about what menu items might go best with other soups and sides and suggest them to help consumers make their ordering decisions, such as minestrone soup with an Italian sub. 
  • Offer soups and sides in multiple sizes so that customers can more easily indulge their desire to try new flavors and food experiences (with smaller portions) and to share those experiences with others (with larger portions).

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods