Investors Steaming Over 'Soup Man' Franchise Problems

The chef who inspired the Soup Nazi character on "Seinfeld" is now irritating investors, who say he is having problems expanding his popular stand into a franchise empire.

Al Yeganeh closed his original Manhattan shop, famous for its strict ordering rules, in 2004 to focus on franchising Original SoupMan stores across the United States. The company launched around 40 stores in its first two years and introduced its frozen soups to groceries.

But disgruntled franchisees say many of the new shops did not make it through their first year, and at least eight have closed for good. Two more have shut their doors for now, although the company said it has deals in the works to reopen them.

Other franchisees told The Associated Press they want out of their contracts because of poor profits or bad relationships with the company. Several have sent the company letters threatening to sue.

A spokesman said the soup company had delayed a plan to open 50 franchises in Britain while it refined its business model.

Kevin Long, whose Original SoupMan franchise in Pennsylvania lasted just one winter, accused the company of misrepresenting how much it would cost to open and run the business.

Prices of $7 to $11 per 12-ounce bowl also made it tough to attract repeat customers, he added.

At least three stores have closed, at least temporarily, in New York City. Shops also shut in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Boulder, Colo.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Ottawa, Canada.

Original SoupMan spokesman John Rarrick attributed the store failures to the normal "growing pains" associated with any new restaurant franchise.

"This is very common," Rarrick said.

On "Seinfeld," a steely-eyed chef makes his patrons follow a strict set of instructions dictating how they must order their soup, and he barks "No soup for you!" at those who fail to comply.

Yeganeh chafed at the Nazi nickname, which he felt insulting, and has discouraged his franchise owners from mentioning "Seinfeld" or saying "No soup for you!" on the job.