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No soup for us — New York lunch stalwart Hale and Hearty has closed all of its New York stores, with no word on if or when it would reopen.
The soup, sandwich and salad standard, which has been serving up affordable lunch options to hungry New Yorkers for 20 years, shuttered seemingly without notice. Signs were posted around area cafes declaring all stores “temporarily closed” (as reported in the New York Post). Hell’s Kitchen’s own Hale and Hearty on W55th Street and 8th Avenue appears to have been closed for some time, with its last exterior menu dated April.
“Honestly, I’m sad,” said Liz Drummey, a marketing executive at Midtown’s Atlantic Records who used to frequent the W55th location. “Their broccoli cheddar soup was the best in the city,” added fellow Atlantic executive Danielle Geiger, “but it’s been shady there for a minute — I’ve gone to Seamless them over the last few months and they’ve had odd hours and availability.”
Hale and Hearty was founded by brothers John and Andrew Schnipper, who helmed the brand until 2006 before opening their eponymous fast casual joint Schippers in 2009, which is still going strong in Midtown. For customers hoping that at least one of the franchise’s 16 locations around town would be back serving tomato cheddar soup soon, Hale and Hearty appeared to be leaving its customers on “read”. Both the “Contact Us” box on the brand’s website as well as telephone numbers for the New York catering and delivery lines were out of order as of this printing.
And it isn’t just fast-casual joints that are struggling amid a lack of office workers providing a midday rush — high-priced, corporate expense account dining rooms have also suffered in the wake of a likely permanent change to hybrid and remote work over the pre-pandemic office model. According to research from the New York Times and dining platform Open Table, reservations for restaurants with an average check price of $50 or more were down 38 percent from the same period in 2019.
The result is a Midtown lunch landscape in which pickings are decidedly slimmer — and pricier. The loss of Hale and Hearty – where customers could snag a half sandwich and soup for $10.50 or a Mediterranean Bowl for $9.95 (half the price of competitors Cava and Sweetgreen) – is a further reason for cash-strapped and inflation-walloped workers to stay home.
As for Hale and Hearty – while the pandemic’s pressure on area restaurants may have been a factor in the chain’s (potential) demise, it appears that legal trouble had additionally burdened the brand’s finances. Bronx-based vendor Baldor Specialty Foods won a suit against a Financial District Hale and Hearty for $58,499 in unpaid invoices in June, and the same location is currently being sued by vendor The Chef’s Warehouse for an additional $159,993 and by their landlord for $400,000 in unpaid rent.
For now, both Hale and Hearty’s fans and detractors were left to debate its downfall while wandering the avenues in search of a lunch under $20. Public transit account Second Avenue Sagas posted on Twitter: “Steadfast in my refusal to engage in any sort of nostalgic retrospective over Hale and Hearty, a place that perfectly encapsulated the sad, overpriced, taste-free Midtown Desk Lunch”, while another user countered: “I loved Hale and Hearty 😔. It was so hale. And so hearty. The soups were good. The sandwiches…well, I liked the soups.”