Industry News | July 25, 2006

Garden Fresh Debuts New Souplantion Prototype

Today, executives at Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. celebrated the grand opening of the company's newest Souplantation location in Chula Vista, California. Two additional locations, operated under the Sweet Tomatoes brand name, are scheduled to open in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona, later this year.

Located at 1810 Main Court in Chula Vista, the 98th restaurant in the chain is the first to showcase a new prototype design. The new restaurant, located in one of the fastest growing cities in San Diego, is 6,420 square feet, and can accommodate 242 guests.

"As we started this process of developing the prototype, there were two things that were important to us," said Michael Mack, chief executive officer of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. "The first was to ensure our new look was consistent with the fresh, ingredients that have kept guests returning to our restaurants for almost 30 years. The second was to ensure we used guest feedback, and the expertise of our employees who serve them, to make a great restaurant concept even better."

The new prototype design offers a contemporary "farmers market" look, with a mixture of authentic and new, earthy and industrial. The exterior was designed with rich earth tones to evoke a farmhouse feeling while the entry facade mixes raw materials such as wood, cement and stone with anodized aluminum accents. The inside has an exposed ceiling, dropped lighting creating an urban feel, and high, barn inspired windows to bring in natural light. In a unique approach to restaurant design, company executives relied heavily on input from employees and feedback from guests to enhance the new look of Souplantation and its guest service as well. An architectural firm was consulted to translate the recommendations into a workable plan.

For nearly 30 years, the focus of Souplantation restaurants has been on the 55-foot long salad bars. In the new restaurants, the atmosphere is more closely linked to the ingredients and brand ideology - fresh, colorful, balanced and filled with choice and possibility.

To highlight the transition from front door to dining room and create anticipation, guests will be welcomed into an entry galley with a staffed greeting stand and a descriptive menu board showcasing the all-inclusive menu items. An exposition kitchen and bakery will showcase staff preparing made-from-scratch menu items. The salad bar will continue to showcase selections in a loose farmer's market style, and will now boast a "to go" lane making it more convenient for guests to enjoy meals at the office or at home. Promotional messages, including menu specials and nutrition information, will be integrated into life-size artwork of fruits and vegetables.

"Overall, the changes were designed to benefit our guests and enhance their dining experience," said Mack. "With the advantage of our collective input, we've been able to make this prototype restaurant more cost efficient as well. We're maximizing our space and adding in cost-saving measures that we've tested to ensure that they really do work."

On the guest service front, the newly configured dining room will immerse guests in the Souplantation experience. Several food bars are now designed for easy two-way access to food and beverages and to enhance the flow.

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