Souplantation / Sweet Tomatoes

Business Impacted

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants specialized in fresh salads and soups, offering a large salad bar with ingredients to build your own plate of salad, homestyle soup options, and pasta, as well as bread, muffins, cornbread, and pizza, baked on the premises.

The first Souplantation restaurant opened on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego, in 1978. It was the idea of Dennis Jay, who was a bartender at Springfield Wagon Works, a pioneer in salad bars in El Cajon. Dennis’s friends, John Turnbull and Scott King were opening their first Soup and Salad restaurant The Soup Exchange. Dennis was impressed with the new concept and introduced Steve Hohe, the Springfield Restaurant manager and Ron Demery, a bail bondsman and friend of John and Scott. Dennis, Steve and Ron decided to partner to create a parallel concept, the Souplantation. The two concepts grew side by side in a friendly, mutually supportive, yet competitive environment for several years. This restaurant and a second one in Point Loma were purchased in 1983 by Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, founded by Michael Mack to operate the chain.

The company expanded across the American West and Southwest, and also opened locations in several Southeast states, including 23 restaurants in Florida. All of the restaurants were company-owned.

In March 2020, all of the restaurants had to close temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 7, 2020, the company announced it would be closing all Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes locations permanently amid concerns that new federal guidelines recommending an end to self-serve stations would prevent local health departments from granting permits to restaurants with salad bars and buffets.

Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company to both Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed for Chapter 7 liquidation with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court the following week on May 14. At the time of the announcement, the company had 4,400 employees and 97 restaurants.

Date of ClosureMay 8, 2020
Years in Business42
Number of Employees4,400
Are you the business owner?No