Founded in San Diego 42 years ago, Souplantation's parent company Garden Fresh Restaurants has laid off its workforce after announcing it would not be reopening due to uncertainty for the buffet restaurant sector in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The first Souplantation restaurant was opened by founder Dennis Jay in 1978 on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego. After growing to two locations with the help of friends, Jay sold the pair of buffett-style eateries to Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp in 1983. The eatery grew to over 130 locations over the years, with all those located outside of California named Sweet Tomatoes. In 2016, the company filed for bankruptcy and shuttered dozens of outposts, but 97 locations remained as of this year.
Although Garden Fresh Restaurants CEO John Haywood has not made an official announcement since informing the public of a companywide closure on March 16, yesterday many employees took to social media to announce the company has ended its run. Just this week, Business Insider published an article predicting that the already struggling buffet restaurant industry would likely be dealt a death blow by persisting precautions and fears surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. There were at least eleven Souplantation locations in San Diego County.
"I have worked at Garden Fresh Restaurants (Corporate office to Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes) since my last semester in college," posted a Garden Fresh Restaurants Marketing Project Manager to her Facebook Page. "I started as an intern and worked my way up to Marketing Project Manager. I honestly thought I was going to retire there, but due to the recent COVID 19 pandemic we have exhausted all options to remain a viable company. What we had hoped was just a temporary closure is now permanent. I am heartbroken that my career (and all other 5,000 employees careers) has come to such and abrupt end. I am beyond grateful that I was able to work for Garden Fresh for 14 years. I have made life long friends and learned so much! What I will miss most is working with my brother Jamie. He also started working for Garden Fresh right after college and got my the internship interview 14 years ago!"
We reached out to Souplantation representatives for comment but did not receive a response by time of publishing.
This is a developing story: We will update this post as we learn more.