‘Soup Nazi’ Furor

Original SoupMan spokesman John Rarrick chalked up the store failures to the normal "growing pains" associated with any new restaurant franchise. Of the struggling stores, he said, "They were really pioneers, and certainly there are risks associated with being a pioneer."

The New York Pose
September 13, 2007

‘Soup Nazi’ Furor
‘Stock’ Market Crash
David B. Caruso

The chef who inspired the Soup Nazi character on "Seinfeld" makes a heck of a crab bisque, but a group of investors says he's having problems expanding his popular stand into a franchise empire.

Famous for its strict ordering etiquette lampooned on the show, soupmaker Al Yeganeh closed his original Manhattan shop in 2004 in order to focus on franchising Original SoupMan stores across the country.

The company launched around 40 stores in its first two years and sold its frozen soups to groceries.

But disgruntled franchisees say many of the new shops didn't make it through their first year: At least eight have closed for good.

Others said they want out of their contracts because of poor profits or bad relationships with the company. Several have sent the company letters threatening to sue.

Kevin Long, whose Original SoupMan franchise in Scranton, Pa., lasted just one winter, accused the company of misrepresenting how much it would cost to open and run the business.

"They are just trying to get as many stores open as possible, and they aren't supporting them whatsoever," Long said.

Prices of $7 to $11 per 12-ounce bowl also made it tough to attract repeat customers, he said.

At least three stores have closed, at least temporarily, in the Big Apple. Shops also have shut in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Harrisburg, Pa., Boulder, Colo., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Ottawa, Ontario.

Original SoupMan spokesman John Rarrick chalked up the store failures to the normal "growing pains" associated with any new restaurant franchise.

Of the struggling stores, he said, "They were really pioneers, and certainly there are risks associated with being a pioneer."

In real life, Yeganeh's Manhattan store had similar "Seinfeld" rules posted: "THE LINE MUST BE KEPT MOVING. Pick the soup you want! Have your money ready! Move to the extreme left after ordering!"

Yeganeh, however, chafed at the "Nazi" nickname, and has discouraged his franchise owners from mentioning "Seinfeld" or saying, "No soup for you!" on the job.


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