Local couple pulling back from restaurant business, plans to sell Zoup! by end of June or close it

Zoup

Owners Steve and Patti Bunch will be closing Zoup!, a fast-casual soup and sandwich restaurant, at the end of the month — unless they find a buyer first. | David Adam

QUINCY — Steve Bunch now is 70 years old, and he’s been looking to reduce his involvement in the three restaurants he owns.

When he learned last year that the fast-casual soup and sandwich restaurant Zoup! was under new national ownership, Bunch and his wife, Patti, decided it was time to sell their business at 3430 Broadway. The restaurant’s last day will be June 29.

St. Petersburg, Fla.-based WOWorks, owned by Centre Lane Partners, LLC, acquired Zoup! in May 2022. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that WOWorks is converting the Zoup! brand to Z!Eats, which has a new menu and restaurant design catering to health-conscious consumers. The first Z!Eats store opened in Atlanta in April, and all Zoup! locations will be revamped into Z!Eats by the end of 2024.

“If we were younger, we would have stayed,” Bunch said. “We really like the changes that are coming. I’m really encouraged by them. I think it’s going to be new and improved. (WOWorks has) some good ideas and good products. I think it’ll be a really good restaurant.”

Bunch said his 10-year franchise agreement has concluded, and he no longer needs to lease the site. He and his wife could simply walk away from Zoup!, and he has an auction date selected next month to sell off equipment, fixtures and furniture in the store. He also could sell the franchise to someone who would go through the remodeling for Z!Eats.

“Whoever takes it on is going to go through an immediate change,” he said. “A lot of the equipment and stuff will remain the same, so there’s that advantage to purchasing from us. It will be an easier transition for (a new owner), but there’s still going to be quite a bit.

“Anything is kind of possible at this point.”

Bunch still owns Tropical Smoothie Café, 3418 Broadway, and Chompz Great American Bar and Grill at the Illinois Veterans Home, 1707 N. 12th. Two of the Zoup! employees will be transferred to Tropical Smoothie Café. 

Bunch said changes in the restaurant industry also factored into the decision to unload the Zoup! franchise.

“The industry was one thing, and then the pandemic shut it down, and then the industry never came back from that,” he said. “It might be starting to a little bit now. But in your lifetime, when have you seen so many ‘Help Wanted’ signs?

“When I was a high school kid, it was like, ‘Is anybody hiring?’ Now everybody is hired. When (Chompz) was at 12th and Jefferson, I hired 40 people in a two-month period. The longest any of them worked was a week, but usually it was one to three days. Some of them didn’t even come back to get their paycheck.”

Bunch plans for his sons, Shawn and Joshua, to take over Chompz, with another son, Steve Jr., assuming a supervisory role. He said he already has people in place to run Tropical Smoothie Café.

After 10 years in the restaurant business and 31 years as a UPS driver, Bunch says he’s ready to retire.

“I’d like to travel out west and see where Patti grew up,” he said. “I’ve never been to Yellowstone. We would like to have a little more freedom to move around. There might be days when I wake up in the morning and think, I’d love to go in (to Chompz) and greet people. Let’s spend a couple of hours. It might be fun. Or maybe we wake up, and I just want to relax that day.

“I’d hate to see this place close. It would be a day of mixed emotions. Bittersweet. I’d hate to not see it here. Even if it’s under a new name, we’re quite willing to help anyone.”

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