At first blush the world of social media can be a little confusing for a CEO.  Everyone is rushing to get involved in it; there is almost no way to feel anything other than behind and there is almost no way to understand if it is worth the investment.  Then I heard a wonderful thing.  Someone said to think of social media as a way to allow your guests to express themselves, for you as a company to have a deeper conversation with them that was much more on their terms by addressing what they wanted to address in the form that they wanted it addressed.  That makes complete sense to me and is compelling and inviting.  In the beginning of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes I would simply walk into the restaurants and ask guests what they were thinking to find out what was on their minds.  I miss that interaction, that contact that is personal and direct.  So I’m excited by the interaction social media brings and am thrilled by what it has to offer.

I am very proud of what we do as company for our guests.  I love eating in our restaurants. I think the food is fantastic and I know the quality of our offering comes at a great value.  I enjoy talking about what we do as a company and intend to share these insights, as well as knowledge from my 25+ years leading the company, through my blog posts.  My goal is to give you a little more insight into our food, our restaurants and our people so you can make the best possible decision when dining out.

I also know that we will always be learning and using insights from you to improve our guests’ experience.  So I look forward to your responses and suggestions.  I won’t be able to cover everything, but I do commit to responding to what is most pressing to the largest number of people.  Most of all, I promise to talk to you in the same authentic way I run my restaurants.

The past year has been a challenging one for us, just as it has been for you.  We have struggled to provide you with the right pricing and offers to fit your various needs.  One thing we have never forgotten, though, is that we are a restaurant company and that our menu and our food must remain our highest priority.  I believe we have stayed committed to both despite challenges and cost pressures and know that 2011 will bring more of that same commitment.   I look forward to engaging with you through this new medium and anticipate sharing company insights frequently.  Please let me know what you think about the brand and company.

22 thoughts on “FRESH TAKES FROM OUR CEO”

  1. We LOVE Sweet Tomatoes, it’s our favorite restuarant. We live in Vermont, but spend the Winter in Florida, and can’t wait to get first to Venice, where there is a Sweet Tomato’s , then Sarasota, then we move on to Ft Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Altomonte Springs, etc. We plan our week around the Sweet Tomato food plan.

    Wish you were in New England.

    Thanks Sweet Tomatoes for the many delicious meals.

    Kristin and Frank Hirsch

  2. I think social media is a great way to connect with customers! There are so many things that people share online now, that they used to only share on their front porch. I say embrace the changing culture. It will change again until things that work really stick.
    Thanks for having a great eating establishment!

  3. Thank you for your gracious offer to communicate so freely with your guests. We need more of that in the restaurant world.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ever growing phenomenon of the Daily Deal sites. I currently work for KidsCause in San Diego and while I think the deal offered to the consumer is great, our priority is a give back to our kids. We offer half of our revenues from each deal to a local kid non-profit. So, with our niche in mind I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole concept.

    Thanks again for your warmness and I will continue to be a patron at your new Encinitas location in San Diego. 🙂

  4. Glad you see you embracing social media – great reasons – and congrats on giving it the time and attention on your busy schedule. It’s terrific when company leaders want to talk more to customers – bless you! I wish they all did, customers have plenty to share. Thanks.

  5. Social Media has changed the relationships (good, bad or indifferent) that companies have with their consumers. It seems like you are embracing this and rolling with the feedback. Thanks for that!

    I’m already looking forward to Sweet Tomatoes tonight for dinner with my girlfriends and the kids!

  6. Whenever we have guests visiting the Orlando area, we take them to Sweet Tomatoes. It is always an instant hit and a very enjoyable and inexpensive way to share good times with our visitors. Your restaurant is a great value for excellent food!

  7. We’ve been dining at Souplantations in San Diego since your company first began. My one request is that you add some soups and breads/muffins that are gluten-free. Those of us who must eat gluten-free (and it’s the fastest-growing dietary approach in the country) can enjoy your salads, beverages, frozen yogurt and baked potatoes. But so far, only your chili seems to be made with a non-wheat base and of course all your breads and muffins are off limits. I appreciate that you have an ingredient book available for me to look at on-site although sometimes the newest items are not in there. It would also be great if you could let us know what salad dressings are gluten-free or offer one or more (I’ve been using oil and vinegar) and make a Caesar salad without croutons, etc. Our local Celiac disease support group does go to your Souplantations here but it takes a lot of work to figure out what to eat. Thank you!

  8. I live in Tennessee and when I go visit my family in Southern Calif. I sure like to eat at Souplantation. It seems the closest to me is in St Louis MO. Thanks for your blog and for sharing.

  9. We were in LA area and fell in love with Souplantations. Home in Richmond, Virginia there are no Souplantations and nothing at all like it. Really would love one here but your corporate office said no plans to come here.

  10. My partner and I love the freshness available at your restaurant it has been a go to spot for us for many years. As all things change so has our diet. My partner is vegetarian and I am vegan. I would really love sinage in your resteraunts that clearly inidicate vegetarian or vegan. Also, not all of the ingredients are listed on the signs of the food items. I have to compliment the staff at your Jacksonville, Fl location as they are always willing to pull out the big book of ingredients for me!

  11. My husband and I go to the Souplantation in La Quinta, CA about once a week. We enjoy the variety. I wish you would offer the cream of potato with rosemary soup a little more often than twice a year. My husband loves the blueberry muffins.

  12. I live in Marshfield Massachusetts, but vacation in Orlando Florida often. I love Sweet Tomatoes and wish you would open a restaurant in Massachusetts. I have suggested this before, but was told you are only considering expanding in existing locations. Please reconsider and give Massachusetts a chance. Thank you.

  13. Sweet Tomatoes is a great restaurant and the only thing our extended family would ask is that you NEVER have meat and cheese with no vegan options (soup/prepared dishes). Thanks for being one of the few options!!

  14. This age is about constant feedback and communication. Social media will truly test the customer service commitment of companies and demonstrate if they are walking the talk. As a ST fan my hubby and I meet often there for lunch. After a customer service issue, where a ST location claiming to be GREEN refused to accept a coupon that I received via e-mail from my PDA ( I was told I should have printed out); I took my frustration to social media. Your organization’s response was swift, my concerns noted, and a remedy implemented. Bravo. Use these tools to continue to provide the best service and feedback to you customers. You can also easily sway lunch choices and build loyalty by building a strategy around your social communication. Good luck!

  15. I love going to Orlando as much for the Sweet Tomato as for the shopping and the activities there.
    I live in Ocala Fl and wish you would open a resturant up here.

  16. I wish I could go to Sweet Tomatoes more than two or three times a month. I’ve been enjoying the restaurant for many years, and in all that time, I have NEVER found an item that was anything but fresh and delicious. I like the variety and the quality, and am impressed by the excellent staff: cooks, cashiers, servers, cleaners, management.

  17. My family and I have enjoyed Sweet Tomatoes ever since the store in Largo Florida opened. We have always enjoyed the freshness, quality, and taste of the food along with the cleanliness of the restaurant and friendly staff.

    Unfortunately, since we moved away from Pinellas County 7 years ago, the nearest Sweet Tomatoes is over an hour drive, which has cut our visits down to just a few times a year. But this past month a new store opened in Pasco, which cut the drive time in half. However, after visiting it, we were disappointed. The store is smaller, difficult to maneuver due to the size,and has lost the same atmospheric feel of the older stores. Needless to say, I would rather drive an hour for a better dining experience, so once again my visits will be less than I would like.

    Social media has changed things a bit for businesses and anyone who has not gotten on board with it as of yet will fall behind those who have. SM is great in that it gives customers a louder voice in being able to state our feelings about businesses. It is also great for businesses in that those of us who love a business will sing its praises to others.

    PS: I do miss the three bean salad when visiting.

  18. Just want to say THANK YOU!!!! to the staff and Management Team.
    They all work so hard and everyone of them has time to ask if everythings ok, or if you need help…Having my 1 yr old granddaughter with me,they are always its awesome…..
    : ))))

  19. Hello & thank you Mr. Mack for creating a wonderful restaurant company. I frequent many of your Sweet Tomatoes in Florida as I travel for business, some on a weekly basis, and have grown to love your restaurants and their teams. My only complaint is that the newer restaurants are uncomfortably small, and therefore too packed during lunch time to be able to have an enjoyable meal. Sometimes too packed to be able to get a table at all! My favorites are the larger ones like Brandon, lake buena vista and international drive orlando. Ample seating, and ample space to maneuver back to the table. I do understand the need to streamline and save on expansion cost, and one manager said they’re smaller that way they can go into smaller markets……but I don’t think you have hit half of the “big” markets in Florida yet (Lakeland, Ocala, Orange City, Wesley Chapel, Port Charlote, Melbourne are all markets you could do huge business in)….. so maybe the smaller ones could wait another few years? And also thank you for reaching out and talking to the public, we appreciate it more than you know!

  20. Hi. We recently visited Sweet Tomatos in Kendall, Miami. We enjoyed it and especially like the green direction of the restaurant which is why we would really LOVE to see some Non-GMO certified foods or even better- Organic! We will visit again… but I do admit that it won’t be too often since we are a little leary of what’s actually in our healthy meal.

    : )

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