Shuttered Restaurant Chain Sweet Tomatoes Is Beginning to Open Locations Again
While buffet restaurants sometimes get a bad rap, the chain Sweet Tomatoes was able to build a strong following of devoted customers with its fresh salad bar and selection of soups, pizza, and bread. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of buffets, in 2020, Sweet Tomatoes suffered from the loss of business. The chain filed for bankruptcy protection and permanently closed all of its 97 locations. But, nearly three years later, Sweet Tomatoes could be making a comeback.
Though most customers know it as Sweet Tomatoes, locations in California went by the name Souplantation despite offering the same look and all-you-can-eat food options. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the chain's very first restaurant opened in San Diego in 1978, the same city where it was headquartered prior to shuttering all of its locations. All of the food was presented in a serve-yourself style, a format that presented issues at the height of the pandemic as customers and operators were trying to stop the spread of the virus.
Now, Sweet Tomatoes is planning to reopen one of its old restaurants in the southwestern United States.
Real estate company CBRE announced earlier this month that it had arranged a new lease for a shuttered Sweet Tomatoes location at 6202 East Broadway Blvd. in Tucson, Ariz. The new tenant, an entity called ST Three, LLC, plans to renovate and reopen the restaurant in the coming months, according to CBRE.
"We first started talking with the tenant last summer, and the operating manager spent time bringing in contractors to understand the scope of work," Nancy McClure, CBRE's first vice president, said in a statement. "He indicated the concept [Sweet Tomatoes] had and continues to have a strong following with patrons still active on Facebook and Instagram sites. "
Many fans were devastated to hear that Sweet Tomatoes was going out of business back in 2020. Under a May 2020 post on the chain's Facebook page announcing the closures, fans swarmed the comments section with messages lamenting the loss of the restaurants.
"This literally made me cry. I've spent so many great times at Sweet Tomatoes with my best friend, sisters, and co-workers," one fan wrote.
While the Tucson restaurant is the only Sweet Tomatoes location known to be making a comeback right now, fans can hope that the reopening is successful enough to inspire additional openings in the future. CBRE said that ST Three purchased the exclusive rights and all intellectual property associated with the Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation brands.
Another buffet chain that suffered during the pandemic, Golden Corral, is also in the midst of a comeback. Following a major loss of sales, dozens of location closures, and bankruptcy filings from two of its largest franchisees in recent years, the brand saw record average sales per unit and a promising 37% increase in same-store sales in the first six weeks of 2023. It has also reopened some locations and plans to add more in the future.