Chain Restaurant Tomato Soups Ranked Worst To Best, According To Customers

When devouring an ultra-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich in the dead of winter, complementing your meal with tomato soup is the clear-cut move. The savory simplicity is precisely why kids and adults alike flock to it. Warming the body like a giant fuzzy sweater, there's no doubt how a cozier antidote to frosty evenings could exist. Every spoonful will glide on a velvet wave of blended tomato purée, butter, and heavy cream for thickness and richness, and aromatic flourishes of herbs and garlic to tame the acidity and sweetness.

We rejoice for the colder months when savoring a hearty bowl is in season, but nothing chills our mood more than slurping a lukewarm, canned bisque. Even worse? When it's from a restaurant chain you thought you could trust. Don't despair though. Sifting through a mix of different establishments, we've managed to zero in on the top-tier soups that justify the price, and maybe more importantly, preserve your peace of mind.

Starting at the bottom of the pot and rising with a crimson crescendo, it's time to delve into the soups bubbling over with the public, and what's getting panned. Items are ranked according to our opinions, and most notably, the valuable feedback, preferences, and suggestions made by customers at large. View our findings below. 

13. Romano's Macaroni Grill

Whether it's hearty pomodoro sauces or Chicken Parmesan, Romano's Macaroni Grill brandishes the tart tomato in just about every way. It is an Italian franchise, after all, dishing out Americanized takes on classic pastas, meats, and seafood across 14 states. So, how does it fail so miserably with soup? 

On paper, the Tomato Basil Soup promises a hearty bowl thanks to "fresh herbs" skimming the top, but in reality? It's a mess. A diner reviewing a restaurant in North Olmstead, Ohio felt the bisque was one out of many let-downs on the table, and this tracks with another disgusted reviewer in City of Industry, California who encountered a "watery" soup more in line with drippy spaghetti sauce than a slurp-able bisque. 

A poor review left on Tripadvisor couldn't even pass off the bland slop as a textbook-definition soup. "It was like eating a can of tomatoes," they complained. Unless you're hankering for a raw helping of Rotel, we'd sit out Romano's. When it comes to this soup, at least, soothing your winter-weary soul doesn't have to come at this price. 

12. Carrabba's Italian Grill

Offering a dose of red sauce to the dining scene, Carrabba's Italian Grill isn't radically different from its cohorts under the Bloomin' Brands umbrella (such as Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill). There are hundreds of locations around the country, with delicious cuisine, and an extensive number of entrées to select from. Incorporating small appetizers and salads prompts a hearty soup, and while Mama Mandola's Sicilian Chicken Soup is the house favorite, other recipes come and go as fleeting specials, depending on the day. 

One flavor in the rotation is the Tomato Basil Soup, and boy, is it a bummer. Taking after pre-packaged pizza sauce is the first offense, but what really seals the jar tight so to speak, is the overabundance of salt riding throughout. The sodium hike doesn't really boost the flavor as one would think; it simply hammers home the processed feel that's generally out-of-place for a nicer sit-down establishment.  

One Tripadvisor user reviewing a Roanoke, Virginia location was offended by the generic flavor. "For the price, I would expect my tomato soup NOT to be from can," they wrote, with the stale flecks of basil and the cherry topping an unbelievably bad evening meal.

11. Applebee's

Around these parts, Applebee's is a household name. Serving a startling range of cuisines on a single menu, and at prices your wallet won't regret later, has been one of its enduring qualities as a major player in the restaurant industry. Dining here will be easy on the budget, sure, but that doesn't necessarily translate to a high-quality meal by any stretch of the imagination. Case in point? The underwhelming Tomato Basil Soup.

Boiling down the bleaker accounts left by reviews, the soup's core problem is tasting like (once again) pizza and pasta sauce — or in an unfortunate diner's experience at a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, plain-old tomato paste. The croutons dunked on top resemble dry planks of cardboard. And if you think the bowl will grace your table wafting with steam, customers have confirmed how tepid and "barely warm" it is first-hand.

As you can probably imagine, this is far from anything we'd want to wade our spoons through, regardless of the 210-calorie load that's actually a fine size for whetting your appetite beforehand. Such a shame that you're getting "pizza sauce in a bowl" versus a blissful bisque.

10. Schlotzsky's

In the last 40-odd years, Schlotzsky's has whipped up a decent crop of outposts in the United States — 338 locations are currently in business at the time of this writing, which remains a humongous leg-up from its initial start as a single shop in Texas's capital. The menu is multi-tiered: salads, sandwiches, and inventive flatbreads co-exist with sides like soups intended to fill out the array of portable entrées.

One patron was far more repulsed by the French Onion soup than the Tomato Basil, but that doesn't give the bisque much of an endorsement. "Fresh, ripe tomatoes" (the chain's words) are stewed with veggies, herbs, plus shredded bits of parmesan, which doesn't sound bad at all. But in the bowl, it's not stirring much beyond the basics. A review for a location in Huntsville, Alabama was somewhat charitable, admitting that "the soup was okay, but somewhat on the bland side." 

We'll grant that it's possibly salvageable when paired with a sandwich — in reality, that's probably how most customers would eat it anyway. Yet warranting its own visit would require a heartier, more robust bisque than the kind Schlotzsky's is ladling. 

9. Ruby Tuesday

Since Ruby Tuesday's website doesn't offer a description of the Tomato Soup, it was crucial to track down as much info as possible on the ingredients and taste. In general, those who've given it a fair shake have warmed to the creamy creation. For one visitor, the bisque featured decent seasoning and a "rich and creamy" taste. However, a negative rating we came across on Tripadvisor did bring up a valid critique that shows a fairly serious issue with the presentation.

It isn't unusual for restaurants to garnish tomato soup with toppings, and with Ruby Tuesday, its bisque arrives fully fixed: specifically, melted cheddar, and a handful of croutons the Honolulu Star-Advertiser confirms are crafted on the premises (fancy!). Now, channeling the flavors of a grilled cheese sandwich is delicious, and exactly what we love in a tomato bisque. But if you're unable to eat dairy or wheat, the restaurant allegedly doesn't put this information front-and-center when customers are placing their orders. At least, that's what the aforementioned customer witnessed first-hand, calling the lack of disclosure "a health hazard." Even barring potential dietary problems, the execution is a little too basic to rank higher. 

8. Capriotti's Sandwich Shop

To diners missing out on the Little Italy in their lives, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop does its darnedest bringing the hallowed deli experience to the masses. The Tomato Bisque Soup features 200 calories per bowl, and as a side offering in addition to Cole Slaw and Chicken Noodle, ensures extra heartiness with any hero or chopped green salad. While it's hard to go wrong with combining a soup and sandwich, the Delaware outlet seems to stir in something special here. Stating that they "really like the Tomato Bisque," a Yelp customer in Las Vegas wrote that the portion is appropriate on days when you need a quick pick-me-up, but aren't hungry enough to wolf down an entire hoagie, "It makes for a really nice, light meal," they added. 

For the sake of honesty, Capriotti's could benefit from the less-than-glowing words demonstrating the soup's slightly mixed impression. Complaints have been voiced over the broth, which one Tripadvisor user wasn't pleased with for being, in their opinion, overly generous in the sodium department. "The Tomato Bisque Soup was rich with pieces of stuff in it, but just a bit too salty for my taste." The reviewer also didn't find the soup to be as adequately satisfying, admitting it was "not filling enough for me."

7. Au Bon Pain

How does the creamy tomato from Au Bon Pain fare among the vast majority of the soups we've explored? Contrary to reservations a Philadelphia-based patron expressed over the less budget-inclusive pricing, visitors appear apt to splurge on a cup (or bowl) now and then. To make its Tomato Basil Bisque, the coffeehouse chain highlights fennel and sweet cream among the familiar ingredients, which encompass a wholesome tomato broth padded out with minced vegetables. 

In many ways, Au Bon Pain boils up a thick vegetable soup that happens to be tomato-flavored to its core. After all, there are many variations at hand that aren't of the puréed persuasion. That being said, the chain labels it a "bisque" — a style of soup defined by its lustrous texture – and yet? There are ample bits floating around in there. Some of us will enjoy the lumps and chunks, but not if you were hoping for the finely blended variety promised on the menu. "The flavor is fine," a Yelp reviewer remarked, "but the small pieces of carrot didn't really add much and actually added too much texture to the bisque, which I expected to be smooth."

6. Panera Bread

At this point, Panera Bread is a fast-casual institution. What began as a scrappy bakery in Kirkwood, Missouri has pushed forth a "clean-eating" philosophy for nearly four decades and counting. It's clear, so far as what the chain tells us, that Creamy Tomato Soup features some higher-quality ingredients. The menu describes an aromatic base of "vine-ripened tomatoes" swirled with heavy cream, Italian herbs, and red pepper to infuse a subtle whisper of spice. To top things off, Panera includes black pepper croutons made out of focaccia bread, a puffy Italian loaf that's an immediate upgrade. 

Yelp commenters have complimented the rich flavor they say achieves equilibrium between tomato-y sweetness and the savory tones brought by the stewed veggies and herbs. And from our research, the café franchise is one of the few spots around offering it in a bread bowl. Whether it lives up to the hype is largely subjective, but at the very least, it's less amateur than other offerings and has the value to back it up. Tacking it onto your Pick-Two with a pressed panini or salad would really maximize the experience, so why not give it a shot on your next lunch break?

5. Corner Bakery Cafe

The Roasted Tomato Basil remains an easy pick when courting a Corner Bakery Cafe near you. Responses verge mostly on praise, with a good deal of patrons describing the bisque as "rich and creamy" and "simply good" through and through. If you've been turned off by the baby food-esque purées that are often peddled at dining establishments, this rustic interpretation is a trustworthy alternative. Take it from this Yelp user in particular, "It was fresh, chunky and the only time I would eat tomatoes."

Corner Bakery Cafe began as a bakery once upon a time, and much like Panera, continues to attract customers with the promise of artisanal breads made from scratch. This serves as an explanation for why the croutons remain one of the bisque's primary highlights. Besides acting as a crunchy counterpart to the creamier broth, the crusty little cubes hold up well. Any of us who've been blighted by soggy hunks of bread floating in our bowls will surely be redeemed by this version. "Adding the croutons provided on the side allowed me to add texture that was very complementary to the soup," remarked a patron. Another happy fan vetoed this claim, raving how "the croutons actually stayed crispy despite sitting in my soup for a while, how awesome!" 

4. Jason's Deli

Jason's Deli isn't any ordinary restaurant chain. The Texas-based establishment is known for its familiar deli staples, but also served within its casual cafés are lesser-seen options in the fast casual realm, including loaded baked potatoes and Louisiana-style Muffaletta sandwiches. By the sounds of it, the Tomato Basil Soup is beloved by a good number of customers and seems poised to enter our lunchtime rotation as a result. We think the heartier, vegetable-heavy stock works, while never straying from the velvety taste we seek out of the cozy, wholesome recipe. 

A Yelp customer dining in was blown away by the "absolutely delicious" soup to the point of waxing poetic immediately following their visit, "The ingredients are top notch, fresh, and tasty." Predicting how plenty of diners plan to eat the soup, the menu goes ahead with a Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Combo, but the bisque is available in individual portions to supplement any entrée choosing. Nutritionally speaking, it's also more accessible to a wide swath of customers, being both vegetarian and gluten-sensitive. This does unfortunately mean that croutons are out of the cards, but the creamy concoction remains just as delectable without the bells and whistles. 

3. Mendocino Farms

In September 2023, following a temporary hiatus from the rotation, Mendocino Farms resurrected the Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup in time for the beginning of fall. One might wonder why a universally-pleasing flavor wouldn't exist on the menu year-round, but it makes sense, given the West Coast chain's seasonal approach to culinary matters. With this knowledge at hand, and the diners who've happily chimed in with their high opinions, waiting for this bisque Great Pumpkin-style will reward anyone's patience time and time again.  

The red broth, consisting of a smoother tomato base, comes nicely seasoned with simple flourishes, such as garlic, and vibrant notes of basil. Together, they form a delectable side or full course that's hot to taste and incredibly fresh — not always common in a fast-casual atmosphere. And although the premium ingredients would indicate a higher price point, costing between $5.20 and $8.20 for a cup or bowl is surprisingly reasonable, knowing most dining chains aren't much cheaper in that regard.

Recalling their experience eating at a Costa Mesa, California outpost, one customer was bowled over by the vibrant medley of dishes, including the soup, that they vowed to return for more. "Cream of tomato soup was delish," they exclaimed. The Coast News found it to be excellent for dunking purposes. 

2. La Madeleine French Bakery and Café

Pastries and coffee are typically what we associate with La Madeleine, yet there's another menu item that garners a well-documented fan-following, and the French café is quite proud of it to boot. The Tomato Basil "Soupe" is a signature dish, and those in the know insist on ordering the silky bisque any chance they get. In fact, ravenous demand has led to the chain selling it by the jar in all of its cafés and web store, alongside fruit jams, vinaigrettes, seasoning blends, and more. 

Even with the scores of dupe recipes to confirm how easy it is to make at home, the amount of hype for the restaurant's concoction demonstrates how hard it is to beat the original. Composed of "vine-ripened" tomatoes with cream and basil, the purée is consistently rich, and laps up compliments with every bowl served. In the case of one customer in Austin, Texas, La Madeleine wholeheartedly creams the tomato soup competition, "I can honestly say it's the best I've ever had!" Another Yelp visitor asserts the bisque is a must-try for customers across the board, writing "Everyone should have the tomato basil soup at least once, as this is one of the things they are known for."

1. Pret A Manger

There's just no getting around a tomato soup that's traditional, but sparked with a little something extra to get our mouths watering. This round, our bellies were won over by Pret A Manger, the U.K.-based quick-serve establishment offering ready-to-eat meals as well as coffee. There's just no arguing that Tomato & Feta Soup boosts a cafeteria standby to a higher level of gastronomical finesse, and visitors wholeheartedly agree. From the perspective of one ecstatic customer, it's the "best tomato basil feta soup on the planet!" 

Quite frankly, the sweetly robust bisque has more in common with a Michelin-star appetizer, and it's due in part to how the café composes its little edible symphony. Per the menu, garlic and onions float in a vibrantly seasoned sea of tomato-y wonder, joined by potent feta and whole cream to cap off the experience. Considering crumbled Greek cheese acts as a salad topper these days, we're overjoyed to witness its foray into the bisque world. The strong flavor marries well with the savory, seasoned broth one Yelp reviewer was fond of, elaborating how it's "not bitter or acidic like other tomato soups I've tried." Discover it at the self-serve soups beside other culinary feats such as the White Chicken Chili and Moroccan Lentil.