“2018 is going to be my year,” I told myself. Then I received a mass email from the CEO of Souplanation/Sweet Tomatoes. Turns out, I was right. 


While this email was absolutely sent to every member of Club Veg, I knew in my heart that it was really meant for me. So I did what I had to do. I wrote him back. Below is my letter to Souplantation CEO John Haywood, sent on January 12, 2018.
 
Also below? His response, received January 30, 2018.
 

My Email


 
Dear CEO,
 
Is this really you? Wait– don’t tell me.
 
As a San Diego native and lifelong SoCal resident, I naturally subscribe to the Souplantation email newsletter aka Club Veg. I was thrilled to read the company’s recent email (handwritten by yourself) which states:
 
 
Per your request, John, I am emailing you some suggestions and thoughts about “Garden Fresh Restaurants” aka Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes aka the only constant in my life.
 
First, I’d like to thank you for taking over as CEO last September, saving a then-dying soup business. We couldn’t have made it without you. However, since you are so new to the family, I have to ask– did you always know you’d grow up to save a buffet from bankruptcy? How long have you loved soup? 
 
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up. 
 
SALAD
 
What do you put on your salad at the salad bar, Mr. Haywood?
 
Me? I do a Wonton Happiness base, then I add peas, sunflower seeds, crunchy noodles, a little egg, and cheese (so sue me). Here’s a picture:
 
 
Oh my gosh, I hope you know I’m kidding. I set most of that cheese aside for later. I’m not crazy.
 
 
Speaking of salads and craziness, who’s Joan? Do you know her personally?
 
 
Was it the broccoli itself that drove her mad, or something more intense, like a nasty divorce in her early twenties due to the pressures of society on women to marry young? I want to make sure she’s okay if I can. Is there a way I can look in on her? I’d like to suggest she receive some kind of health benefits if she is not already.
 
SOUP
 
Okay, now let’s talk soup. I have a lot of thoughts/suggestions here.
 
What is your favorite Souplantation soup, JH? You have to have one.
 
For me, I think you can’t beat the classic Big Chunk Chicken Noodle. (This is where I put the extra cheese from earlier by the way.)
 
 
I always find myself at the soup bar holding a Big Chunk alongside an empty, surveying the scene, like this:
 
 
There are a few “Seasonal Favorites” that I can get into. For example, the turkey soup that comes out around Thanksgiving is an inarguably fun treat. I also once, in Autumn I believe, experienced an excellent corn chowder that I never saw again… can anything be done about this?
 
I admit the Deep Kettle House Chili is another classic. I always wonder though, do I really like chili? Or do I just like cheese and oyster crackers?! There’s probably no way to know for sure, but I thank you and your corporation for making me think.
 
One time I did put some chili in a soft serve cone.
 
 
It was fun, but the structural integrity of the cone suffered. One of your associates suggested I “double-cone” it. I told him you guys should be working on improving the existing cone rather than coming up with workarounds.
 
I could go on for days, but I’ll spare you– those are my main soup thoughts. If anyone disagrees with me, I’ll fight them over by the tapioca pudding! Just kidding. Desserts cannot be broached this early. We still have to discuss…
 
THE FOCACCIA
 
Is it pizza? Be honest. I’m tired of lying to myself. I think it’s pizza. I think I like to dip cheesy pizza in soup and that’s okay.
 
 
Also, how did you guys decide which four cheeses would go into the Quatro Formaggio? If that’s too personal of a question let me know.
 
Now…
 
THE PASTA
 
Here is where I get a little heated, and I do apologize, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to ask… what the heck is the deal with the pasta? Does anyone eat any of it? Why do I want linguine at a soup restaurant? The mac and cheese is okay but… do we need it? I don’t think we do. I say this with love.
 
(I don’t have a pasta picture because I don’t eat it.)
 
Please note: this question/suggestion does not pertain to the pasta salads over at the salad bar. Those are fine.
 
DESSERT
 
Alright, let’s talk final course. 
 
Have you ever tried putting honey whipped butter on the brownies? Many friends and loved ones have criticized me for this over the years, but I feel like you’d understand? 
 
Here I am enjoying this combo just last week:
 
 
I will say– I do find it especially crucial to butter my brownies ever since the switch from full brownies to the “brownie bites” pictured above. Can I ask why this switch happened? I know you never mean to hurt people, but it did sting when I realized the real brownies were never coming back.
 
Another change that impacted my life was the decision to stop passing out fresh chocolate chip cookies at the table. Do you remember that? When Souplantation staff would bring around a basket full of those warm, comforting cookies, draped in a classic forest green cloth napkin? I truly think of this period as a chapter in my life. I’d love to see the Warm Basket Era revived, but understand if it’s simply too late.
 
In conclusion, I thank you for seeking my advice via Club Veg. I feel as if I have been waiting my whole life for a moment like this.
 
Hope to hear from you soon,
Paige “Buttered Brownies” Weldon
 
 
P.S. Do you guys care that it upsets people to see a restaurant called SouPLANTATION, or nah? Just wondering!
 
Ok, talk soon!
 

 


John’s Response

 
 

Thank you, JH. -PW






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