The once schmatta-strewn rectangle of Mile End bordered by Bernard, Laurier, Saint-Laurent, and de Gaspé hasn't quite pulled out its industrial roots, but there's no denying that the neighbourhood has changed. Traditional manufacturing businesses have been replaced by, or now rub shoulders with, Waldorf-style daycares, yoga studios, contemporary art galleries, and tempeh production facilities. In that spirit, the headquarters of SoupeSoup, housed in a sprawling, brutalist building on Casgrain and Maguire, is poised for a major upgrade.
The soup and sandwich outfit, which operates eight restaurants and employs close to 100 people, has targeted a corner, windowed space on the ground floor for its sleek new flagship restaurant (scroll down for a photo preview). A modern, adjacent office now serves as the chain's nerve centre, with a central kitchen on the building's fourth floor supplying SoupeSoup outlets throughout Montreal. Slated to open in stages as of late April, SoupeSoup's latest will seat 82, making it the second-largest in the chain's roster, behind its Old Montreal/Cité du Multimédia restaurant on Wellington, west of McGill. The large, light-flooded space will feature counter-and-barstool seating facing Maguire street, a long communal table, and plenty of four-tops, and two-tops. An alcohol permit means some beers and wines will be sold, in addition to SoupeSoup's tried-and-true sit-down or takeout menu of soups, sandwiches, salads, desserts, third wave coffee drinks, and assorted other beverages.
The model Mile End restaurant will have portal Wi-Fi access for patrons, and a small market component as well, bolstered with goods from Montreal-based purveyors. "There's not a lot of shopping space in this part of Mile End," says Patrick Desbois-Collins, SoupeSoup's general manager. "You can always go to Saint-Laurent, but you'll pay a markup. Here we want to focus on the community, and on local products."
The restaurant will be available to rent for special events like vernissages, and 5 à 7s. Other key changes for the chain include a new POS system from Montreal's Lightspeed, and a lineup of vacuum-packed stews, slow-cooked dishes, and salad meals set to roll out by year's end. The imminent flagship facility will be a chance, however, to remind people of SoupeSoup's soup-centric ethos. A kind of brand relaunch party for staff is in the works at the new Mile End space. A symbolic reboot for SoupeSoup, perhaps? "Not a reboot," remarks Desbois-Collins. "More like a war cry."
Update, May 17, 2016: SoupeSoup Mile End officially opens today.