Restaurants Show Growth in Soup and Salad Menu Items

Away-from-home soup and salad purchases are on the rise, as consumers seek light, healthy and affordable fare. A variety of portion sizes featuring soup/salad options on different areas of the menu allows consumers to tailor their meal specifically to their needs. Whether it’s a cup or bowl, side or entree, 61 percent of consumers now order soup at least occasionally during restaurant visits, up from 52 percent just two years ago. Salads have grown even more, nearly half of consumers now order salad all or most of the time compared to 34 percent.

“Healthy options and portion variety are driving factors in today’s soup and salad menu positioning,” says Technomic Director of Consumer Research Sara Monnette. “Operators are revamping their menus in response to consumer demand for soup and salad as a standalone entree, side substitution, an appetizer, or a component of a combo meal. There are many menu variations in which soups/salads are now offered.”

To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and gain a competitive advantage, Technomic has developed the Left Side of the Menu: Soup and Salad Consumer Trend Report

Interesting findings include:

  • Soup and salad are the two most common appetizers at both limited-service restaurants (LSRs) and full-service restaurants (FSRs). Appetizer salads remained fairly steady in both sectors since 2009, while soup grew 22 percent to surpass salad as the leading appetizer at LSRs.
  • Salads are the fourth most frequently menued entree among all entrees at LSRs and rank second at FSRs. Chicken-topped salads are by far the leading entree variety offered at both LSRs and FSRs, followed by Caesar.
  • Based on information from over 500 leading and emerging chains, chili has surpassed soup-of-the-day offerings to become the leading soup variety at LSRs, and ranked second at FSRs.
  • Interest in healthier, lighter fare is driving increases for both soup and salad. 76 percent of consumers who are purchasing salads more often say they’re seeking a healthier option and 49 percent want something lighter.
  • A strong majority (64 percent) of consumers believe that dressings are a key component, if not the key component of a tasty salad. The overall variety of options and flavors offered trumps healthfulness and brand names as purchase drivers.

Technomic’s Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report examines soup and salad consumption, purchasing behavior, attitudes and preferences of more than 1,500 consumers. The Menu Insights section utilizes Technomic’s MenuMonitor online database to provide an in-depth look at soup and salad menu trends at the Top 500 and emerging limited- and full-service restaurants. Additionally, data from Technomic’s 2009 Left Side of the Menu Consumer Trend Report series is cited throughout the report to provide a benchmark for many of the menu and consumer trends that are discussed. Appendices to this report include detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 emerging and innovative soup and salad concepts.

To purchase or learn more about this report please visit

Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.