The Blog Squad

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Seinfeld's Soupman Comes to Richmond

As a former resident of New York City, I was lucky enough to regularly lunch on delicious soups created by a true master of the form — Al Yeganeh, better known as the real-life inspiration for the Soup Nazi character on Seinfeld. Funny as that episode was, I always felt like Yeganeh got a bad rap. (And apparently he feels the same way, since Rule No. 2 for the press on his Web site reads “No ‘N’ word.”) The harshly enforced rules at his soup stand did exactly what they promised — kept the line moving for “the most efficient and fastest service.” In my experience, the only people who got tossed were those annoying creatures who are always holding the rest of us up at lunchtime by waiting until they’re at the head of the line to decide on their order or figure out if they’ve got enough money.

Of course, Yeganeh could afford to lose the occasional customer because he really delivered the goods (that part Seinfeld definitely got right). It wasn’t cheap — the best things in life rarely are — but along with a very generously portioned cup of delicious soup (my fave was the turkey chili, but I’d also occasionally dip into the chicken gumbo or the beef goulash), you’d get a piece of crusty bread, fresh fruit and a chocolate with each order. It was always an occasion for sadness around my office whenever Yeganeh would close up shop in the warmer months, just as it was an occasion for joy when he returned.

Now there’s an occasion for joy in Richmond: Yeganeh’s soups are available locally in the freezer section at Ukrop’s (and Joe’s Market) under The Original SoupMan label. Apparently while I’ve been away from Manhattan, Yeganeh has franchised out his restaurant concept (closest location is in Tysons Corner, sadly) and his soups are now sold in 15-ounce packages at grocery stores. (You can also buy the soup online, but shipping costs are a bit prohibitive.) The cost ranges from $3.99 for garden vegetable to $6.49 for jambalaya, and Progresso and Campbell’s simply can’t compare. Needless to say, I’ve stocked up. A couple nights ago, I heated up some turkey chili, and the turkey and kidney beans bathing in a spicy tomato base reminded me of why I used to make the trip to Yeganeh’s Soup Kitchen International on 55th St.


At Sat Oct 06, 01:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Got Swindled and Lost Big said...

1. The issues with the franchisor are much deeper than it appears.
1. The company is undercapitalized. An investment bank retained to raise capital for the franchisor had discontinued its efforts after having received commitments for approximately 25% of the targeted capital. This was a result of the poor operating results of the company and its underlying franchisees.
2. The company has been seeking an acquiror of its operations. Throughout this effort the issues and challenges brought to the attention of the company by its franchisees have been quietly addressed but none of the problems have been resolved.
3. The misrepresentations made by the franchisor to induce franchisees to acquire territories and open up an Original Soupman outlet are many: (a) understatement of food costs; (b) co-branding with Cremalita ice cream to balance overall sales in warm months was abandoned soon after first 12 stores opened for business; (c) mandated use of cups and bowls that are 25% larger than purported serving portions, resulting in giving away 25% more product than consumer was paying for and at the same time causing an increase in purchases of product from the company to replenish inventory.


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