Dear Soupies, It’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these. Some of you may have been reading along so many years ago, when I wordily begged your pardon for retiring the old reusable soup buckets, for expanding my delivery fleet to include trucks, for expanding my menu to include things other than soup. This time I will be begging your pardon for my decision to finally bring an end our delivery service.
The Soup Peddler delivery service has been chugging along in its various iterations since 2002, when it was just me, the boy on the bike. When I began this business, Austin (and frankly the world) was truly a different place. In the food world, there were no farmers’ markets. There were no food trailers. There were no food bloggers. There was no downtown (to speak of). There was no flood of restaurant investment. There were no “disruptive apps” that brought food to your door. There were no CSAs. There were no Greenlings, no Farmhouse Deliveries. There were no prepared food emporia for every dietary preference. In fact, I don't recall if there even were dietary preferences back then. And you may not remember, but grocery stores at that time simply sold… groceries. So the competitive food landscape has changed dramatically, and the competitive attention landscape has changed too.
The Soup Peddler delivery service has managed to survive those changes, but truth be told, it has struggled to remain relevant and more recently, solvent. I don't mean to place all the blame on external forces. I am certain I have made mis-steps along the way, and there are quite enough thoughts on that subject to form a lengthy future post.
But fortunately, I did have one good idea along the way. In 2010, my wife and my banker and I made a huge leap of faith and invested in building a store. Completely different business model, completely different offering. Completely similar pie-in-the-sky business planning. As you know, I am an accidental entrepreneur. Well, "The Soup Peddler Real Food & Juice Bar" was my next lucky accident.
While the history of that effort is worthy of its own manifesto, suffice it to say that those three stores, with a fourth one in the oven, have proven to be an incredible success. They have given new life to our brand. They provide a sensible, scalable, manageable business model. They enabled us to make the leap to our new kitchen. Our organization changed on the inside to be able to support those stores, and we've developed a fair bit of institutional wisdom on the subject along the way. We found that the stores were an exciting showcase of what we can do, and that the audience and response were expanding and affirming. In short, "bricks and mortar" clearly became the path forward for The Soup Peddler.
As much as we believe in the delivery service, as grateful as we have been to the trust endowed to us by our Soupies, the writing has been on the wall for some time. I revisited the numbers, and the numbers said, "It's time to let go."
Making decisions is something we must learn to do as we grow older. I, and I'm sure many of you, have at times suffered from an inability to make large decisions. I recall several circumstances where I weighed options to the point of neurosis. It's like tasting a soup for salt so many times that you can no longer objectively taste it. I learned that that is a debilitating way to live, because life throws more and more decisions your way, and you have to decide. You have to. So many things depend on it. The fear of making a wrong decision can be even worse than making the wrong decision itself. So, all things considered, at this point in my life this was a fairly easy one.
As I often say, "business is personal." Well, there's no more personal food brand in Austin than The Soup Peddler. I am very sad to see this go. I will miss the food. I look at our recipe database and think of the ungodly amount of work and creativity that went into it. It's sad to me that that is all going away, won't exist anymore. I also feel quite terrible about letting our most devoted customers down. I know, because I share the experience, that the food becomes part of the fabric of your home life. So that is going to be a big change for some people. Moreso, we have quite a few customers who are either elderly or housebound or disabled for whom our service is very important. No, nobody is going to starve, and yes, there are many more options these days (Instacart, Favor, and the like... though they are not for the faint of technology) for customizable food delivery. But there's nothing quite like our delivery service, and I am sorry for its loss.
The good news. Our massive library of the world's greatest soup recipes, thanks in great part to the phenomenal staff at our stores, will live on. Our culinary wisdom will continue to thrive in the creative salads and side dishes we offer in our grab and go fridges. Our crave-worthy sandwiches offer another mutually beneficial outlet for our creativity. Our delightfully unique juice and smoothie menus will continue to develop in years to come. And yes, you can still get our beloved cookies any time you want.
There's just a little more to this. I think most of us have counseled friends coping with loss or divorce, and experience shows that there is light on the other side. There is a void, and into that void eventually comes new life. It takes time, but it always happens to some degree. So for me, this was also a personal decision. I am looking forward to finding out what will come to fill the space that I am creating by ending the delivery service. I trust that my old friend serendipity will come knocking with something perfect up her sleeve.
I will follow up with a tying-up-loose-ends email shortly. My deepest gratitude, as always, for sustaining us and delivering us to this day.
Yours, David J Ansel