Case Study: The First 100 Delicious Days of Souplantation.com

By Jeannie Fratoni
Creative Director, RDI

A 220% Increase in Returning Visitors—That’s a Lot of Cabbage!
Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants is an all-you-care-to-eat dining experience where you can enjoy the freshest ingredients and a meal that is your own creation. Red Door Interactive built an entirely new site for them from the ground up and the site visitors keep coming back for more. We formulated strategies and recommendations of our own, but we wanted to hear directly from their most dedicated fans—over 1,300,000 members of the Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Club Veg, their advisory board—the Kitchen Cabinet, and users of the site. With their loyal following and passion for the brand, we wanted to build a site for them—by them. We sent out surveys and incorporated those results. So in the end, it allowed us to validate our entire process from discovery and strategy through design and implementation.

The Challenge: Build a State-of-the-Art Site Incorporating Social Media and More
Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes’ online community was growing strong since Red Door Interactive had launched their Facebook and Twitter properties early in 2009. Facebook fans grew to over 48,000 fans and Twitter had over 13,000 followers. We needed to unify that loyal following and grow it within the new site as well as cross promote contests and monthly menu promotions. When coming to the new site, we wanted users to see Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes as the fresh, wholesome dining choice – where food goes straight from ‘Farm-to-Fork’. It needed to tell the story of how they hand-pick their growers for the highest quality ingredients and use those to create made-from-scratch salads, soups and baked goods. The content needed to be playful and ever changing. The site needed to allow the users to make it their own, just like in-store where you create your own unique meal and experience. With the opportunity to plan, design, develop and implement a completely new site from the ground up, it allowed us to create a completely customized experience for users and ultimately do what we do best at Red Door Interactive, Internet Presence Management.

The Goals

  • Keep it fresh: Contemporize the site, make it relevant, exciting, interactive and delicious, and give the users a reason to keep coming back.
  • Engage the audience: Implement a blog that allows guests to get inspired, share, communicate and engage in fresh content. Include a section with fun activities for kids.
  • Personalize: Allow users to make this site their own just like the in-store experience.
  • Grow Club Veg: Increase customer loyalty and grow memberships through initiatives such as refer-a-friend campaigns
  • Grow the community:  Create an environment for the active social community to engage on the site via live Facebook and Twitter feeds.
  • Make shopping easy: Develop a complex shopping cart for their online gift card purchases that allows users to ship to multiple addresses.
  • Improve technology: Develop the site in the latest .NET platform for increased security, stability and sustainability.
  • Increase store traffic: Boost in-store sales via an easy to use fundraising-booking tool.
  • Localize: Allow users to select their home store which gets memorized and allows users to receive localized content and special promotions each visit.
  • Searchability: Make the site SEO friendly to maximize organic rankings, traffic and conversions.
  • Optimize: Research, plan, select and install an enterprise-class web analytics tool.

Overall Site

This is the fun part. This is why we all come to work everyday! It’s why we love what we do and where we begin to see all of our efforts come to life. But it’s not just about the beautiful food photography or the fun playful approach—this new site packs a punch in functionality to boot.

Souplantation.com is a completely customizable experience. Users can select their favorite background (mine is the penne pasta as you see above) and home store. Immediately they are served with promotions for their local restaurant such as a brunch call-out and it remembers their choices each return visit.

For the home page animation, we used one simple word—indulge—to tell 7 unique stories about Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants. There is a surprise and story behind every letter. The letter ‘u’ tells the story of how they hand-pick their farmers. The letter ‘e’ highlights their made-from-scratch menu items. The letter ‘n’ showcases the salad bar—55 feet of farm fresh fare. You’ll have to discover the rest on your own. Indulge!

Fresh Ideas Blog
The blog encourages visitors to communicate and discover fresh content. You can comment on blogs, tweet them or share them to any social community such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. We also included a Facebook Fan Box and a Twitter Stream with live feeds. Users can share what their favorite menu item is or even go as far as recommending a new one! The robust search allows you to find any blog topic, or you can just browse by category or popular tag cloud. Easy peas-y.

For Sprouts Only
This is the action packed section of the site for hours of activity. Here you can play an interactive arcade game called ‘Spud-man’ with classic music and all. Downloads in this section include coloring sheets, activity sheets and a ‘Travel with Sweetie’ picture. Animated screen savers and fresh desktop screens are also available. Join in the fun!

Gift Card Shopping Cart
We completely rebuilt the entire cart adding functionality and ease of use. Cha-ching.

Join Club Veg Form
We optimized the form and functionality to include localization and kept it short and sweet. Sign me up!

The Results

  • 220% increase in returning visitors
  • 17% increase in visits
  • 20% increase in Gift Card Sales

(All data is compared year over year – March 2010 vs. March 2009)

Social Media Promotions

  • 400 percent increase in Facebook fans as a result of the April “Pucker Up” contest

Online Fundraiser Tool

  • Over 200 Fundraisers booked within the first month of launch providing over 100% ROI in less than thirty days

Club Veg Members

  • 70,000 new members subscribed on Souplantation.com in the month of January resulting in over 1.3 Million members to date


Fresh Ideas Blog

  • Over 4,000 comments were received within one week in response to a St. Patrick’s Day contest called ‘Eat Your Greens’. Prizes included two sets of 10 complimentary meal passes for blog readers and additional prizes for Facebook and Twitter participants.

Client satisfaction

We presented our client with three unique and thoughtful creative directions to choose from. We also created branded ‘indulge’ aprons for the team as a leave behind for an added touch.

@gingeranderson sent a tweet shortly after our creative presentation: ‘Can I shout from the rooftops how much I love Red Door? Once again, they blew our socks off. Awesome work.’

We couldn’t be more pleased with our new Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes site. Its fresh look and playful creative are completely in sync with our brand. With the inclusion of a blog, an online fundraiser tool and the “Sprouts Only” kids page, our engagement with our guests has dramatically increased. Our guests can really spend time on the site and feel more connected.” Jill Trecker, Manager of Guest Loyalty, Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants

The First 100 Days of Souplantation.com have been an amazing success. We always knew the fans were loyal to the brand, and we couldn’t wait for the opportunity to provide them with a new site. The new souplantation.com gives them a reason to return for seconds, and even thirds!

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