Upon visiting a selection of Hull’s local independent cafe’s which serve home made soup, we also asked them a few questions about their lovely businesses, how they ended up running their own cafe’s, and what kind of produce they tend to opt for in their menus.
Secret Garden Café (Cooplands)
Q: What soups do you currently serve?
A: We serve soups throughout the year and that is our standard, and they are all vegetable based. What we’ve started doing now is introducing a seasonal soup; we have carrot and swede, and winter vegetable we’ve introduced. We’re looking at veg that’s in season and thinking: can we make a different soup to make it more interesting to the customer, and from a business point of view, vegetables are cheap so it makes business sense. It’s a good wholesome product we can make in every café. I developed the recipes for the soups, and the seasonal soups will be available until the end of December. I also have another six different soups ready to go for January/February time, but then also we can intermittent the soups with our normal ones which are leek and potato, tomato and basil, mushroom, carrot and coriander, and vegetable soup. We always use fresh vegetables, never frozen, and we also make the soups without thickening so they are available for anybody who is gluten free.
Q: Which towns and cities are the café’s in?
A: We are in Middlesbrough, Scarborough, Pickering, Bridlington, Driffield, Beverley, Cottingham, we have two in Hull, one in Louth and one in Gainsborough.
Q: Do you have a favourite vegetable supplier?
A: We use two local suppliers – Dennis Butler and Compact Foods. Most of our other stuff we buy from Turner Price which are another local company.
Q: Why should customers come to Cooplands café?
A: Because Cooplands is a family run business and is still family run today, the ethos is still very much about families and very much about traditional, good quality food at a reasonable price. We bake all our own products, we have three bakeries: one in Hull, one in Scarborough, and one in Middlesbrough, and we get all our produce freshly made on a daily basis.
Q: Do you find that the soups sell quite well?
A: Yes. A lot of people come in for the vegetable soup because they know it’s homemade.
Q: Is it still quite popular throughout the year, or just in the colder seasons?
A: No, you’d be surprised how many people have soup in summer – it is more popular in winter time, and I think giving people a few different choices is making a difference as well as it’s something new. We just need to focus on rotating them so it attracts people. Winter time is the best time of year to sell our soup, but they are popular throughout the year.
Q: Aw wow, do you use free range eggs and red tractor meat?
A: Good question! I’d need to double check that.
Q: Are the vegetables you use in any of your dishes seasonal?
A: Yes – that’s what we’re getting more into, doing seasonal stuff. It’s more cost effective and it keeps the customers interested, as we can do different things as we go along.
Q: Do you find that food waste is a problem in the cafes?
A: I think we are generally quite lucky, because we have a lot of information from prior weeks that we can use to tell us, I don’t know, something like we averaged at twenty portions of soup last Tuesday, then we can base our figures around that. Because our tills are so sophisticated, we can get a lot of information and we can store that information from last year; so, we could check our sales from last year at a particular café and then we can estimate our numbers, and that helps us from a waste point of view. It is hard to predict, because if the weather is really bad people may not come into the café, so it’s a bit of a balancing act. We have a production sheet in every café where they record how many sandwiches or salads are made etcetera and put notes on them to say how the weather was and such like, and we retain that as information we can look back on to make a much better judgement of how much we need to make in a day.
Q: Wow, that’s a good idea.
A: Generally, overall the cafes have a specific waste level that they have to strive for.
Visit Secret Garden at 57 Jameson St, Hull HU1 3JF.