(Photo from Melting Pot website)
- Business Columnist Phil Hardwick dives into the fondue with Melting Pot’s Franchise Growth Strategist.
One of the country’s most unique experience-style restaurants may be coming to the Jackson area.
Collin Benyo, Franchise Growth Strategist for The Melting Pot restaurant chain, confirmed that the company’s expansion plans might include Mississippi’s capital city.
“Our research indicates that the demographics, economic factors, and more make the area an excellent location for another Melting Pot restaurant,” Benyo said. “We are now looking for the right person.”
The Melting Pot uses SiteZeus, an artificial intelligence-driven service that gives insights on ideal locations for franchises based on economic data and demographics, Benyo said. He noted that SiteZeus will “run this algorithm and essentially show us on a map where the opportunities are in the continental United States.”
The Melting Pot, which began in Florida in 1975 now has 94 restaurants in 31 U.S. states and Canada. It is privately owned. Its current CEO is also the founder of the company. Many existing Melting Pot restaurants are being updated to meet current customer demands. The main attributes of the new design are lighter color schemes and more brightness in the spaces — a departure from the chain’s original design in 1975, which was more focused on dark colors and spaces, according to a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News.
Although it’s all about fondue, the real product is experiential dining. Essentially, it’s an interactive dining experience where guests cook and eat their food right at the table.
Fondue, which comes from the French “fondre”, meaning “to melt,” had its origins in 18th century Switzerland as a means for farm families to stretch their limited resources during the winter months. With some remaining cheese, some stale bread, and a dash of wine the family could gather around the hearth. It became a popular dinner party choice in the 1970s. There are four commonly prepared types of fondue. They are cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, oil fondue (also known as meat fondue), and broth fondue. Such restaurants are growing in popularity. Fondue restaurants have carved a unique niche in the ever-evolving world of dining experiences.
Bob Johnston, CEO of the melting pot, in an article in Forbes magazine, attributed its longevity to its “…catering to what people want, enabling them to connect with each other, family members, and good friends, and nervous first dates as well.” He said it offers “entertainment” since the chef is involved in the preparation of the meal at the table in front of the guest, making it an interactive and inviting conversation.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot Culinary – 2024 Forecast” consumers want to sample—and share through social media—new foods and flavors from other regions, both domestic and international but in a form that’s recognizable, comforting, and, often, communal. That bodes well for a restaurant such as The Melting Pot where customers not only indulge in new foods, but also experience learning about the food, preparing it themselves, and sharing their experience with fellow dinners.
So, what are some of the trendy foods for the coming year?
Soups and stews, grilled cheeses, global wings, and international BBQ top this year’s trends list, along with integrating social media into menu marketing. The survey respondents see baked or similarly heated cheeses such as Swiss raclette, Greek halloumi, and Tex-Mex queso fundido as a significant trend in the coming year.
The top “Macro Trend” in the above-mentioned forecast is incorporating social media trends into restaurant menus and marketing, according to more than 1,500 culinary professionals surveyed. Evidence of that can be found on YouTube.com where there are plenty of shared experiences at local Melting Pots.
The Melting Pot has no direct competitors as such, i.e. fondue experience restaurants. According to Benyo, the competitors are other restaurants that offer a special dining experience. Places typical of where people would go to celebrate a special occasion such as an anniversary, a graduation, or a family or friends night out. Perhaps even a first date.
According to The Melting Pot’s website, the franchisee might be an experienced restaurant owner, a landlord or someone who wants to be a first-time franchisee. The selected franchisee “…will receive thorough support and training, that encompasses real estate, national and local marketing, construction, and more.” It is noted that only three of the 90-plus franchises are corporate-owned. Benyo also said that a number of franchisees became owners after experiencing the dining experience as a customer.
Selecting the right franchisees is crucial for the success of any expansion plan. The Melting Pot selection process involves a combination of interviews, background checks, and evaluations of business acumen. The ideal candidate possesses a passion for hospitality, a keen understanding of the local market, and a dedication to upholding The Melting Pot’s high standards.
FOR MORE INFO
Extensive information about franchise ownership can be found on the company’s website at here.