'Soup Nazi' coming to Canada

"The whole thing was launched based on the popularity of the Seinfeld TV show," Mr. Greenspon said. "We came in on that wave and it got us launched very successfully, only to find out it was a seasonal business."

The Globe and Mail
April 15, 2005

'Soup Nazi' coming to Canada
Infamous Seinfeld character promises to be nice when he ladles out expansion
Keith McArthur

Seinfeld's Soup Nazi is coming to Canada.

Al Yeganeh, the New York soup man made famous in a Seinfeld episode for his grumpy brand of customer service, has struck a deal with Ottawa lawyer Brian McAsey to open 100 restaurants in Canada under the "Original SoupMan" banner.
2005415 'Soup Nazi'

Mr. McAsey, who fell in love with Mr. Yeganeh's soups on a trip to New York, approached the chef last year when he heard Mr. Yeganeh had formed a business group to explore franchises.

Mr. McAsey's group has committed to opening at least five stores in the first year and 100 over seven years. Some of the initial locations could include Toronto's Eaton Centre, Ottawa's Rideau Centre and locations in Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax.

The soups — including Mr. Yeganeh's famous Indian Mulligatawny and crab bisque — will be made at a facility in Indianapolis under the direct supervision of the infamous chef, then shipped to Canada.

Mr. Yeganeh will also be able to monitor what's going on at each location by webcam.

But staff will not adhere to Mr. Yeganeh's notoriously brusque demeanour and his strict enforcement of rules to keep the line moving.

"Our instructions to the store managers are to treat the customers and the product with complete respect," Mr. McAsey said.

The Seinfeld episode with the soup man remains one of the most popular of the series years after it aired. Although the company played up the Seinfeld appearance in a press release yesterday, Mr. Yeganeh dislikes the way he was portrayed on the sitcom, and especially his "Soup Nazi" label.

"That was a crime that happened and we don't want to cash in on that crime and connect it to the Holocaust," Mr. Yeganeh said in a recent interview on Fox News.

Still, regulars say the Seinfeld portrayal was only a slightly exaggerated version of the famous soup man. Customers who dawdle are subject to Mr. Yeganeh's scorn.

On his website, Mr. Yeganeh even posts rules for the media. All questions must be submitted by e-mail and no personal questions or follow-up questions are allowed. And of course, no mention of the "N" word (Nazi).

Despite an effort to follow Mr. Yeganeh's rules, there was no reply yesterday to a request for an e-mail interview.

Mr. McAsey knows most consumers recognize the brand because of Seinfeld, but he said he will make no effort to capitalize on the connection in his marketing.

"Because of the media, there're going to be references to Seinfeld. Because of the notoriety, there will be a number of people coming there because of the celebrity of Al," he said.

"But we believe that people will come back because it will be the best food they ever tasted."

This isn't the first time that a soup concept based on Mr. Yeganeh's famous broth has come to Canada.

Starting in 1997, Montreal franchise consultant Martin Greenspon opened about 20 "Soup Man" stores in Canada before venturing into the United States. Mr. Greenspon met with Mr. Yeganeh to persuade him to partner in the venture, but the chef declined.

"He's not the easiest guy to talk to. If you remember how he was portrayed in Seinfeld — that's the kind of guy he is," Mr. Greenspon said.

Mr. Greenspon quickly discovered that soup is a seasonal business — even Mr. Yeganeh's store closes each summer — and he sold the company in 1999.

"The whole thing was launched based on the popularity of the Seinfeld TV show," Mr. Greenspon said. "We came in on that wave and it got us launched very successfully, only to find out it was a seasonal business."

Mr. McAsey said the outlets will also sell cold soups in summer.


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