The first Souplantation restaurant, an industry-defining concept, was opened in the Mission Gorge area of San Diego, California in March 1978 and soon followed with a second location in Point Loma. Industry experts credit Sweet Tomatoes as the first casual eatery brand to serve fresh, wholesome menu options.
In 1983, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. (Garden Fresh) was founded by Michael Mack and Anthony Brooke through the acquisition of the first two Souplantation restaurants. The company maintained steady growth through the 1980s and began to pursue growth beyond its core Southern California market. In order to enhance its brand profile and reflect the company's dedication to fresh, wholesome ingredients, it adopted the Sweet Tomatoes name for new restaurants outside Southern California.
The first Sweet Tomatoes restaurant opened in Palm Harbor (Tampa), Florida in January 1990. During the next several years, the company continued its steady expansion with a focus on refining corporate infrastructure. At the time of Garden Fresh's initial public offering in 1995, the company operated 33 restaurants under the Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes names in three states. After the initial public offering, the company undertook a rapid expansion from 1998 to 2001, adding 44 units in 10 states. In 2004, Garden Fresh returned to private company status. Currently, the company owns and operates over 125 restaurants in 15 states. Steady growth is planned through the foreseeable future.