Welcome to Sweater Weather! Leaves turn and fall, brisk winds swirl, and sweaters are broken out from dusty corners of closets. Ah, autumn!

Something else happens. Eaters at your restaurants navigate menus with certain expectations this time of year. To complement their wonderful wool sweater, they find what really cozies up their bellies. And we’re not quite talking about hot chocolate with marshmallows (always a fine choice). We’re talking about seasonal soups that sit in folks’ stomachs like cuddling up with a warm blanket next to a fire.

As a restaurant, managing these expectations means exciting your guests with options throughout the season. We compiled several soup selections that you won’t want to overlook. Even if you normally list one or two soups on your menu, consider a special (especially one with some pizazz) to provide a perfect value-add. Soon after you’ll hear what we all hear when someone takes that first sip of hearty and wholesome soup, “Mmmmmm!”

Seasonal Mainstays

You can’t go the fall season without mentioning butternut squash, so why not offer something like a roasted butternut squash soup? Blend it with butter and chili powder to give it a little extra savoriness and kick. Consider having a regular or spicy option as well, so you can play with spices. Top it with chive cream and toasted sunflower seeds for the perfect presentation.

And there are few ingredients as versatile and dependable as the potato. Pump up your spud with a homemade loaded baked potato soup. Create your favorite hearty cream soup base and throw in a bunch of dice potatoes. Play with the size of your potato chunks to find something unique to your offering. Top with bacon, cheese, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, as if you’re serving potato skin appetizers.

Or pump up that childhood favorite tomato soup as a roasted tomato soup, using roasted tomatoes blended with smoked provolone cheese. Put in a dollop or two of heavy cream for richness and add cheddar toast points as a garnish. Consider this as a variation for a soup and sandwich combo (we’re looking at you, loaded grilled cheese — mix in ham or bacon bits, tomatoes, and spinach).

Creative Variations

Beef up a kale offering with sausage kale soup using Italian sausage (mild or spicy) with fresh veggies (try diced carrots, onions, garlic, and celery to start), braised kale, and orzo pasta. This is easily served as a meal, checking the meat, green, and starch boxes. Also, the dish has a wow factor with high-margin potential.

Any restaurant concept with even a hint of Italian needs to consider zuppa Toscana. This creamy international favorite blends the heartiness of potatoes and bacon, unique flavor bite of kale, and the warmth of a roasted chicken broth. Get creative by popping in Italian sausage or replacing the bacon with prosciutto or pancetta. Be sure to serve this with fresh Tuscan bread, as its very dippable.

What’s a seasonal soup without some sort of chili! Throw a flavorful wrinkle in your chili this year and do smoked brisket chili with chopped smoked brisket, roasted tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, green peppers topped with roasted garlic sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese. Make this into a full entrée by serving it on a bed of garlic-salted macaroni tossed in olive oil.

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