I usually tag along with minimal gusto when friends and family suggest franchise restaurants. Even the new “fast casual” places like Chipotle or Five Guys usually feel formulaic, devoid of novelty and charm.

But Southfield-based Zoup! (and this is the last time you’ll see the trademarked exclamation point in this article) swims upstream of the same-old, same-old franchise flow. Zoup has hundreds of official soups. From behind the counter of its Plymouth Rd. shop, one of seventy-five mainly Midwestern and Ontario locations, you are greeted with a rotating selection from the Zoup canon–a dozen choices on any given day. Smiling workers immediately offer to ladle up sample cups.

If there’s a limit on samples, I didn’t hit it. Before even ordering on my inaugural visit, I was able to assess the mild spice and meatiness of turkey chili, the hearty bulk and subtlety of north Indian lentil, the velvet texture and slight sweetness of pureed tomato basil, and real seafood flavor without fishiness in crab (not imitation “krab”) bisque, further elevated by a hint of thyme.

The crab wasn’t the only noteworthy seafood option that day; it was rivaled by a creamy real lobster (and crawfish) bisque, whose faintly pink base held a lingering sherry-tinged sweetness. It tasted much closer to a harbor bistro than a corporate chain. When it came time to order, I opted for what I was told was their most popular soup: “Chicken Pot Pie.” Even thicker than the bisques, it’s jeweled with bright peas and carrots amidst chunks of white meat chicken, a crumbly “crust” sprinkled atop. Coupled with a chicken Caesar salad, it was a satisfying lunch, but not so heavy as to dim alertness for afternoon work.

Along with the changing lineup of soups, the lists of “Sandwichz!” and “Greenz!” (eight options each) seem deep enough to warrant more exploratory visits. We liked the rich multi-cheese, tomato, and pesto sandwich, grilled panini-like on country French bread. Guacamole, olives, and gorgonzola boosted a Cobb salad beyond its customary toppings like bacon and hard-boiled egg. But only a tangy sharp horseradish mayo saved the “roast beef” (pressed luncheon loaf meat, really) sandwich from complete disappointment.

Zoup has not entirely overcome the conundrum presented by holding soups at temperature in heated vats. Some selections–mac and cheese soup, for example–seemed to be thickening up in their vats to unappetizing levels, while others transitioned more gracefully to crockpot-style stews. Some selections are not cheap, but Zoup uses quality ingredients, and fresh bread (sourdough, multigrain, or French) is included in the price.

The dozen daily soups are seasonally appropriate (warm-weather options include chilled gazpacho), and the menu has icons to identify vegetarian, low-fat, dairy-free, gluten-free, and spicy recipes. Picky folks can check Zoup’s website or bring a smart device to scan the “nutritional info” icon next to every menu item for calorie, sodium, and fiber counts. Zoup staffers can help too, since ingredients are listed on the back of the name cards by each tureen.

Lots of transparency with a deep stock of rotating high-quality fare adds up to pretty much the best you can hope for from a corporate franchise. The setting is definitely standard fast casual chain–switch out the signage, and this could be Panera (although the Plymouth Rd. franchise leaves its coffee urn empty, in recognition of two other cafes at the mall).

We experienced a genuine personal touch, as friendly employees customized our salads and kindly offered to turn down the music volume in the dining area to improve our lunch date with a guest grandpa in his nineties. I could have quoted him calorie and sodium counts if needed, but what really mattered was the beaming smile as he spooned up chunk after chunk of lobster meat in his bisque, repeatedly marveling, “Look at the size of this one!”


2619 Plymouth Rd.



Soup $4.25-$13.25, salads $4.25-$6.95, sandwiches $4.25-$6.95, desserts $1.65-$2.10.

Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Wheelchair friendly.