One thing's for sure: No TV chef has ever made an impression like the ever-dour Soup Nazi, portrayed on the "Seinfeld" show by actor Larry Thomas and based on Yeganeh. His character appeared on Seinfeld just once, and then in only one of three story lines woven into an episode that first aired back in 1995. But the image stuck. Yeganeh and his partners in six-month old Soup Kitchens International are betting that, thanks to reruns, the Seinfeld-driven level of awareness is still high. They've already inked deals for 123 units of their Soup Kitchen International, the first of which is scheduled to open in New Jersey later this summer.
"We really plan to take this whole concept international because Al is world renowned," John Bello, the business' chairman, told the Associated Press. The concept's basic selling proposition is certainly unique: Soup so good you'll put up with obnoxious customer service just to get your hands on some.
To Yeganeh's credit, his soup business boomed before and during the Seinfeld days, and is going strong today. Check out his website (www.soupkitchenintl.com) for a view of the lines of customers that routinely encircle his original store on W. 55th St. in Manhattan.
But should you pop for a franchise? If you do, you better put it in an upscale area. The projections call for Yeganeh's soup stands to charge $10 for 8 oz. of soup, plus a piece of bread, a drink, a piece of fresh fruit and a chocolate. Also keep in mind that Yeganeh's company wants to introduce a line of frozen soups into supermarkets, too. Fifteen-oz.packs of heat-and-serve soups will retail in the $3.50-$5.50 range.
In fact, like any restaurant franchise venture, this one has plenty of risks. But don't worry. You can learn how to evaluate them with the help of experts by going to the International Franchise Association's website, www.franchise.org. Once you're there, work your way through "Franchising Basics," a free, online course. You'll find plenty of information there about how would-be restaurant franchise owners can best perform due diligence on any concept. Hit this site first, then head for the Soup Kitchen International site and click on its "franchise" tab. It's worth a look, if only for the educational value.