Souplantation May Return To San Diego Under New Ownership

April 9, 2024

Souplantation alter-ego Sweet Tomatoes recently reopened a once-popular location, and new company ownership indicates San Diego may see the return of the once-treasured, all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant?

Founded in San Diego over four decades ago, 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. 

In May 2020, we at SanDiegoVille broke the news to the world that all Souplantation restaurants (and sister concept Sweet Tomatoes) had laid off more than 5,000 employees across the country and would not be reopening any locations due to uncertainty for the buffet restaurant sector in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Souplantation executives later confirmed our report was true after multiple outlets picked up the story. A long-promised, unlicensed revival of the Souplantation brand in San Diego's La Mesa ultimately fizzled, despite huge public support. 
In 2021, Florida-based ST Three LLC, which is reportedly managed by Norbert Lou of Winter Park, FL, purchased the exclusive rights and intellectual property assets of Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes from auction, and then "retained operators with decades of experience at Sweet Tomatoes to revive it." Last week, on April 1, Souplantation sister-concept Sweet Tomatoes reopened a 7,000 square-foot, once-popular location in Tucson, AZ, with hungry diners lining around the building to get a taste of the familiar buffet restaurant. The Arizona branch, located at 6202 East Broadway Boulevard in Tuscon, initially opened its doors in 1996.

Although only one Sweet Tomatoes location is open right now, Malone indicated to Restaurant Business Online the company is considering expanding to additional markets in the future. Could this mean Souplantation may return to San Diego, the city where it all started? Only time will tell, but chances are higher than they were years ago as the company has confirmed that all markets are being explored for reviving the restaurant chain. 

"We know there is a demand for Sweet Tomatoes all over the country!," wrote a representative from Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation. "We're hoping that our Tucson location will be a huge success and will pave the way for us to bring Sweet Tomatoes back to as many loyal fans as possible. All markets are being considered for future expansion. Keep an eye on our social media as that's where all our updates will be posted!

For more information, follow Sweet Tomatoes on Instagram and feel free to message the company letting them know you want them to bring Souplantation back to San Diego.