Souplantation, Sweet Tomatoes will likely close, CEO says, citing coronavirus

Discussion in 'The Food Forum' started by Brian in Mesa, May 8, 2020.

  1. Brian in Mesa

    Brian in Mesa BIM™ Contributor

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    Buffet-style in trouble: Souplantation, Sweet Tomatoes will likely close, CEO says, citing coronavirus

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/08/buffet-style-souplantation-sweet-tomatoes-restaurants-will-likely-close-ceo-says-citing-coronavirus/

    The bottomless soup and salad appears to have finally run out at the 42-year-old buffet-style restaurant chain Souplantation, known outside Southern California as Sweet Tomatoes. Its chief executive revealed Thursday that he and the chain’s owner are planning to permanently shut down all 97 locations across the country.

    The toll of covid-19 is the “sole reason” for the chain’s downfall, John Haywood, CEO of the restaurants’ parent company, Garden Fresh Restaurants, told The Washington Post Thursday. After federal health authorities recommended halting buffet-style service, Haywood said he and the owner, Perpetual Capital Partners, simply did not see a viable path forward for a restaurant built entirely around that concept.

    “We’ve exhausted everything,” he said. The only option left is to file for bankruptcy, he said — the “obvious outcome” of which will be that “the restaurants will not reopen."


    “We spent eight weeks modeling different options, and it just doesn’t work,” Haywood said. “Part of the magic is enjoying the ability to build your own experience there. So you can think about different ways to do it, but it takes away the essence of the concept. Financially it’s just not feasible.”

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    Ugh.


    We frequent their restaurants in California (Souplantation) just about as often as we do here in Arizona (Sweet Tomatoes).

    Great healthy options. Serve yourself.

    I wonder if this is just the first domino to fall among buffet-style eateries as a result of Covid-19?

    Also hearing that the FDA wants to do away with any self-serve drinking stations in restaurants and other businesses.
     
  2. Raindog

    Raindog Registered

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    I am (was) a frequent patron, too. This would be a real shame. But I don't understand why they couldn't go to just having line servers like all old cafeterias used to... at least for a period of time?

    Also, I hope we don't lose self serve beverages. One of the best things to come along in restaurants in recent decades.
     
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  3. puckhead

    puckhead Waxing Gibbous Contributor

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    We really liked ST's as well. Before quarantine, we would go a few times a month. Simple, fresh food. Sad news for all the employees.
     
  4. cwamjn

    cwamjn Registered

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    Great restaurant. This is sad.
     
  5. Jersey Girl

    Jersey Girl Stand down Contributor

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    Love the place. Great options for everyone in the family. Sad to hear this.
     
  6. Dback Jon

    Dback Jon Killer Snail Contributor

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    Buffets are the last place anyone should want to eat right now.

    Sad - I liked Sweet Tomatoes
     
  7. BigRedRage

    BigRedRage Reckless Contributor

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    "solely because of covid" or, razor thin margins that barely sustained.
     
  8. puckhead

    puckhead Waxing Gibbous Contributor

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    Any reason not to take him at his word?
     
  9. BigRedRage

    BigRedRage Reckless Contributor

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    Just seems like if this shuts down a major organization like that, you had much bigger problems. That place is really good but I only went when I had coupons. Pretty expensive.
     
  10. puckhead

    puckhead Waxing Gibbous Contributor

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    Anything is possible, but I truly think the buffet style restaurant model is destroyed when dealing with a virus like this. Everyone touches the same utensils, lines up shoulder to shoulder, sit together closely, goes back for refills in the same areas and on and on. Hard to see how to adapt if that's your whole identity.
     
  11. Dback Jon

    Dback Jon Killer Snail Contributor

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    Yup. Golden Trough is trying to adapt by becoming more cafeteria style - you have to be served, still all-you-can eat.


    I wonder how Brazilian Steakhouses will adapt?
     
  12. BigRedRage

    BigRedRage Reckless Contributor

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    Not ideal, that is for sure.
     
  13. BigRedRage

    BigRedRage Reckless Contributor

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    Because they have servers, I would imagine not much changes. The only walk up I have seen at those places is a salad bar and they could bring it to you too.
     
  14. AZCrazy

    AZCrazy Registered

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    Do you think that the near term effects of this tightening will become fully permanent then? If, a year from now the virus is a memory, would restaurants venture back into these waters?
    Hopefully if nothing else the businesses that have been most drastically effected by this start doing a lot better job of contingency planning. Gotta have a real plan in place in case something like this happens. It will happen again. It just hasn't happened here in a hundred years but will probably happen more frequently in future due to urbanization and drug resistance.
     
  15. puckhead

    puckhead Waxing Gibbous Contributor

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    Even that changes the experience for me. For example, at Sweet Tomatoes, I love building my own salad because I determine the ratio of ever little thing down to the croutons. Even when I dish up my chicken noodle soup, I go heavy on the chicken and light on the noodles. My sundae doesn't look like anyone else's either. (I put the little cones on top :) ) By the time it gets down to it, those places have lost the appeal and I'll either make something at home or go where the sit-down experience is going to be higher quality for the money instead of a cobbled-together adaptation.
     

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