Hale and Hearty Soups has been doing fast casual for decades, long before the concept was popularized. Their first storefront opened in 1995 in New York City, and, back then, soup was the cornerstone of their menu. But we aren’t talking canned minestrone or mushroom. No, Hale and Hearty was serving up freshly made stocks and stews—anywhere from 16-20 different kinds— from high-quality ingredients that were sourced locally whenever possible. And people loved it. “To this day, our customers are phenomenally loyal,” says Andrew Eck, Director of Marketing. “Our average customer visits us nearly twice a week.”
And over the past two decades, they’ve had even more reason to do so. While soup continues to be what Hale and Hearty is known for—their Broken Lasagna soup, which is exactly what it sounds like, a sort of deconstructed lasagna, has a near cult following—the company has evolved over the years to include hearty, customizable salads and substantial sandwiches made with freshly baked bread. Both of which help to sustain business during sticky NYC summers, when a hot bowl of soup isn’t what consumers are craving.
“We consistently try to stay on trend,” says Eck of Hale and Hearty’s ever-changing menu. For example, in a nod to customers clamoring for grain-based salads, the company added a Basil Chicken & Farro Salad this past spring with grilled chicken, farro, crisp asparagus, grape tomatoes, and a mix of romaine and arugula—to rave reviews.
Their popular Mango Lime Chicken Salad with grilled chicken, sweet mango, avocado slices, red bell pepper, mixed greens and mango lime vinaigrette dressing tastes like summer in a bowl. “We introduced that salad last summer and it did so well, it’s back by popular demand,” says Eck.
Like their soups, all of Hale and Hearty’s dressings are made from scratch daily in the company’s Brooklyn commissary kitchen. And the mayo-based offerings contain cage-free eggs to boot.
Hale and Hearty also crushes it in the sandwich department. Their Picnic Chicken sandwich—think fried chicken with housemade pickle slaw, honey mustard and a potato bun— and pesto caprese with walnut pesto, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella, are continual fan favorites.
If you can’t decide whether to get a salad, sandwich or soup, Hale and Hearty offer a Perfect Pair, which is a medium soup plus a half sandwich or salad. And all orders come with a choice of bread or oyster crackers. “Oddly enough, people go crazy for our oyster crackers,” says Eck, which are specially made for all of Hale and Hearty’s 20 plus locations. (In addition to NYC, they also have a location in the NY suburbs and one in Boston.)
It’s no wonder the brand serves 500 customers on average every day. “The fast-casual space has really grown, particularly in New York City,” says Eck. “But we’ve stayed true to our values and have maintained a cool connection to our New York City market. To be able to sustain that for 20 plus years is pretty remarkable.”