By Deborah Brancic
Any good business will have ways to keep regulars coming back, with promises of some new item or service. As good businesses go, one well-known eatery in the Longwood Medical Area (LMA) is aspiring to hold to that standard: Souper Salad recently added a new steak burrito to its menu that has customers lining up. Located in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the cafe has been catering to patients, doctors, and college students alike, offering several healthy menus to accommodate any diet concerns. Knowing their guests are their livelihood, Souper Salad tries out different promotions periodically, offering customers an incentive to return.
The new steak burrito is already picking up in popularity, after just a few weeks on the menu. Leslie Martinez, Souper Salad supervisor, said it was a guest favorite. “That’s going pretty good,” she said. “The burritos are pretty popular, in general.” The new variation joins other guest favorites like the Chicken Sapporo, Thai Chicken and Poblano Roasted Vegetable.
Martinez said the eatery realizes that guests are looking for a bit more when they stop in for a bite, which is why there are so many options to choose from. “We try to be as healthy as possible,” she said. “We get a lot of diabetic, older people that come in, a lot of cancer patients, a lot of different types of people with different types of health problems or restrictions to their diets, so we try to help them out as much as we can and offer whatever it is that they need.” All menu items are trans fat free, according to their Web site, and there is also a gluten-free menu displayed inside the establishment.
When older couples come in looking for a low-sugar option, Martinez said she tries to help them. The husbands are a little less inclined to take her suggestion, she said, because “I usually try to show them the fruit, if they want something sweet, cause that’s what they’re looking for. I offer them apples, we’ve got bananas, we have oranges sometimes, granola bars, and they’ll just look at me like I have ten heads. Like, I don’t want that, I want the cookie.”
Aside from the fruit, there is another popular item, which is what Souper Salad is known for in the area: the salad bar. Most people who come in flock to the bar, and some are very passionate about the ingredients, said Martinez. “Some people literally get mad… sometimes we get really busy and sometimes we’re paying attention to three things at the same time. Oh, I forgot to put the potatoes in there, then you’ll have a customer like, ‘Excuse me, are there any potatoes?'” she said.
But the main reason guests love the salad bar: they don’t weigh the salads. “If you get the small bowl you fill it up. Sometimes I tell the customers, you know you can fill that up a lot more, it’s gonna still be the same price,” said Martinez. This way, customers can get a lot for their money.
“Everybody gets the Chicken Caesar. You can never have a day with not one person getting the Chicken Caesar,” said Breanna Lai, the cafe’s catering assistant. However, the best seller was the Tuscany wrap, one of their vegetarian options, she said.
Besides the food, the eatery keeps customers coming back with new promotions every month. “We just finished on a promotion with, on your receipt there’s a survey, you complete the survey, you print out the coupon, and you could get either $3 off your next purchase or a free large smoothie,” said Martinez. In the past, they have also offered stamp cards, offering repeat customers a free sandwich or wrap after purchasing ten items, and $1 off coupons. “We used to have Souper Cash, it was like $1 and we would hand them out, $1 off your next purchase,” she said.
Hospital visitors and employees tend to frequent Souper Salad, because of its convenient location. In fact, some people are there so often that they pick a favorite server, said Lai. “I have a lady that, whenever she comes down, I make her caramel macchiato, she will not let anybody else make them.”
In addition, the cafe’s Web site allows customers to place orders for pick-up, so that they will be ready when they arrive. This is one perk that medical personnel not only take advantage of, but also greatly appreciate. “A lot of people in the hospital, they don’t have enough time to come down especially, lunch is busy. They’ll do an order online and come pick it up, and it’ll be ready by the time they get down,” she said.
College students also enjoy grabbing a healthy meal when they can. Lai said they tend to come by in large groups. She recalled one night a sports team stopped in after a match. “It was during December, maybe before then. I don’t know if they were soccer players or some kind of players, but they had jerseys on,” she said. “Twenty girls come in, it’s like 5 minutes to close and we’re like ‘oh my gosh.’ We made them their food, they had all four of these tables taken up, celebrating for their win. It’s cool.”
Souper Salad has been in Boston since 1976, family-owned and operated for two generations. There are two locations in Boston, both of which open at 6:30am. Souper Salad is owned by Fresh Concepts, LLC, the owner of Fresh City, which has locations in MA, NH, and CT.