Boston's Soup Season Means Big Business For Local Eateries

Photo: Chaiel Schaffel/WBZ NewsRadio

The last few yellow stragglers are clinging to the trees, and that means one thing for local restaurants: 


"Soup season" might sound like a half-baked marketing invention, but around Greater Boston, it's a quantifiable fact. 

Local restaurants say as soon as the weather gets chilly, they get flooded with people clamoring for a warm bowl. For some of them, it's a key economic driver in the fall and winter, beginning in late September and October. 

At Zaftigs Delicatessen in Brookline, the Matzah Ball-Chicken Noodle Soup is a big seller, even to the extent of keeping the restaurant going.

The Jewish-style deli sells the soup in individual portions, but also in prepackaged pints and quarts.

"Honestly, we wouldn't survive without chicken soup and potato pancakes," said Staff Manager Julian Ramirez. He's been in the restaurant industry for a decade, and at Zaftigs for half that time. 

Ramirez said the restaurant sells thousands of portions, which are fast to make and are almost never wasted. He broke down the numbers, and said Zaftigs made about $23,000 on quarts of chicken soup in October and November of 2022 alone. Quarts are the key money maker. The sales peak hits around Thanksgiving, when the restaurant can churn through 140 gallons of soup a week. 

Ramirez said the sales surge is caused by colder weather and holiday meal-making, but is also a function of cold and flu season, which — anecdotally, at least — appears to be a big driver. 

It's not limited to Zaftigs, either. 

In the back of the house at Life Alive in Dedham, Chef Dylan Mendelsohn told me soup orders shoot up after September there too. Life Alive is a Greater Boston vegetarian chain with ten locations

"In October we just start cruising, we'll start to see those sales double and even triple in some months, especially after snow starts to hit the ground," he said. 

The chain's butternut squash bisque is doing especially well. Mendelsohn's job includes developing and testing new recipes. Asked what made a good soup, he said it begins with the building blocks:

"It all has to do with your parts. Layering different dimensions of flavor but also spice, and using a really large quantity of them," is part of it, he said. Technique, like using recipes with several steps, extracts the most flavor from the ingredients. 

Mendelsohn said soup sales (and fall food in general) are linked to a sense of nostalgia.

"When you think about when you're a child, those dishes, food kind of comes around and double-clicks on those memories. As soon as you have fall come around — and fall is my favorite season to cook in — the pumpkin spices, the cinnamons, the butternut squashes, carrots, brussels sprouts especially, those are flavors people start to crave," he said. 

WBZ's Chaiel Schaffel (@CSchaffelWBZ) reports:

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