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Souplantation is one of two chains of soup and salad restaurants owned by Garden Fresh Corporation, in operation since 1983. There are 90 locations in 15 states, some of which go by the name "Sweet Tomatoes." The franchises serve pretty good food at a reasonable price and are exceptionally clean, especially for a buffet restaurant. I happen to work at one of these fine establishments, so I'll let the good folks of E2 in on a the inner workings of the SP (diggity).

Souplantation is (their own wording here) an "all-you-care-to-eat" establishment, with 4 main food bars. When you walk into a Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes, you will first encounter two 55 foot long salad bars, serving a variety of fresh salad. No tricks here. But then comes the cash register, where you pay for your food. The pricing is pretty straight forward, and will run you 8 bucks a pop for dinner. Drinks are extra, but a glass of water is free. A word of advice, just get the water. There are soda fountains right next to where you'd refill the water, so you can yoink yerself some Sprite. If you are especially daring, take a peek at one of the nametags of the bar workers behind the register. Say you are "Danny's" guest, and you and 2 other people can eat for 4 bucks.

There are 3 bars after the register, the first of which (most often) is the pasta bar (where I happen to work). There are 3 types of pasta served daily, and all of these are "Zero Defect Items." Zero Defect Items are things that have to be perfect, lest I get fired. If you want to get someone at Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes in trouble, complain about one of the Zero Defects. Another thing, if a guest "accidentally" uses a serving utinsel from one pasta to serve himself another pasta, that's cross contamination. The pasta guy now has to smile and throw away the "contaminated" pasta and start all over.

Following the pasta is our soup bar, which has 5 soups per day. The Classic Chicken Noodle Soup and the Clam Chowder are mainstays of the bar, and thus constitute four and five of the nine Zero Defect Items. There are roughly 2 pounds of white meat chicken in each vat of soup, all sitting on the bottom. When the Chicken runs out, we have to replace the soup. If you want to piss off the soup guy, scrape the bottom of the pot and take the chicken out. You could also dump the Tobasco sauce on the counter into the vat of chili, but that's just mean.

The last hot bar at every Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes is the hot bakery. The guys at hot bake are the kings of Souplantation, because they have to master all the other bars to get to bake. It pays 50 cents more an hour... Virtually everything at the bake are ZDI's, so have fun. Personally, I recommend the pizza here, dipped in a tiny bit of Chicken Soup broth. And one must not forget the cookies. At Souplantation, the baker makes delicious chocolate chip cookies, the bendy chewy kind that have so much grease they shine in daylight. These cookies are then handed out sparingly throughout the dining room by some attractive young girl they hired specifically for the task. The trick is to get you hooked so you buy the little bags of them up at the register. An ingenius piece of planning devised by the GMs and certainly a violation of the Geneva Accord. Screw that! Go to the baker and ask him for cookies, he'll give you some for free.

A couple more tidbits of information:

  • Some Souplantations are named Sweet Tomatoes, but why? Well, when Garden Fresh started to branch out their Souplantations into the American South, they met a bit of...well...hostility. Namely the ACLU, if I recall.
  • There is no possible way you can eat more than what you paid for. Let's say you're a senior citizen going to lunch--with a coupon--that's the cheapest possible scenario at $3.99. The most expensive item we have is the pizza, which costs 25 cents a PAN, 24 slices to a pan. Do the math, eating the most expensive item exclusively. You'd need to eat 384 two oz slices of pizza.

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