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Souplantation

Sales: $100.9 million (–0.6%)
Headquarters: San Diego
Market segment: Buffet
No. of units: 41 (flat)
ESPU: $2.5 million (–4.2%)
Year founded: 1978

One of the first salad-bar concepts, Souplantation has developed a dual personality under operation by Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. The 41-unit Souplantation brand is part of 112 restaurants operated by Garden Fresh, although locations outside of Southern California are known as Sweet Tomatoes. Over the past year, both Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes have been going through a revival. In June 2012 Garden Fresh hired a new chief executive, David Goronkin. Other changes included a new head of marketing, senior vice president of development and corporate chef.

Goronkin launched a refresh program that aims to update the decor and expand more on the chain’s farm-fresh produce and healthful offerings. Some restaurants will add beer and wine, and the menu includes new grilled protein skewer options. So far, three Souplantation locations have completed the remodel, with more to come before the end of the year.

Souplantation is hitting on elements that are important to today’s diners. Guests can fully customize their meals, indulging if they want to or eating lightly. The concept also addresses the needs of vegetarians, vegans and diners avoiding gluten.

Paradise Bakery & Café

Sales: $100.2 million (–2.8%)
Headquarters: Richmond Heights, Mo.
Market segment: Bakery-Cafe
No. of units: 61 (–1.6%)
ESPU: $1.6 million (+7.5%)
Year founded: 1976

Launched more than a quarter-century ago in Long Beach, Calif., the Paradise Bakery & Café fast-casual concept had moved its headquarters to Arizona by 2007 when powerhouse Panera Bread Inc. purchased a majority stake in the company, adding to its bakery-cafe footprint in the West and Southwest. Panera purchased the balance of Paradise Bakery & Café in 2009 and since then has reshaped the chain’s menu to mirror that of the popular bakery-cafe flagship chain.

Paradise operates in seven states, although Arizona claims the greatest share of its unit count, with 38 stores. Utah and Texas both have a handful of locations, as does Indiana. There also are two locations in Nebraska and single units in Colorado and Massachusetts. Paradise did close one restaurant in fiscal 2012, during which time the brand’s estimated sales per unit rose 7.5 percent to $1.6 million — likely due to similar sales drivers as those at Panera. Those include its focus on catering and popular limited-time offers like the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad, offered during the summer.