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'Soup Nazi' starts franchise

Saturday, April 30, 2005

TRENTON, N.J. -- The brusque New York chef who was lampooned on "Seinfeld" as the "Soup Nazi" plans to open a chain of takeout soup stands across North America. But don't expect the authentically rude New York treatment.

Signs will be posted in each of "The Original Soup Man" franchises bearing chef Al Yeganeh's strict rules for ordering, such as "Have your money ready!" and "Move to the extreme left after ordering!" But a company spokesman said workers will be prohibited from shouting "No soup for you!" at customers who disobey.

Yeganeh and his partners have signed deals for 123 outlets so far, with the first slated to open in Ridgewood, N.J., this summer.

The group hopes to have 1,000 franchises at shopping mall food courts and airports in the United States and Canada within seven years. The partners also plan to sell refrigerated soup in markets.

"We really plan to take this whole concept international because Al is world-renowned," said John Bello, chairman of Soup Kitchen International, the five-month-old venture named for Yeganeh's original storefront restaurant in New York City.

The storefront has been a tourist attraction since the 1995 "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer become frequent visitors to the Soup Nazi's takeout restaurant before angering him and having their soup orders abruptly cut off.

"He is a typical high-strung chef," said operations manager Linda Gavin, and his manner was portrayed "pretty accurately" on "Seinfeld."

So high-strung, in fact, Yeganeh hung up on an Associated Press reporter who had lined up an interview -- before a single question was asked -- then refused all further requests for an interview.

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