Bowl of chocolate fondue at The Melting Pot.
The Melting Pot

Before COVID, The Melting Pot didn’t have a to-go or delivery system. That's all changed.

The Melting Pot is Ready to Get a Lot Bigger

It wants to open more than 30 restaurants by 2024. 

Because fine-dining establishments rely so heavily on the in-restaurant dining experience, no segment was hit harder when COVID first swept through the U.S.

At the lowest point in April, transactions were down more than 80 percent compared to a year ago, according to The NPD Group.

Melting Pot—often described as the world’s largest fondue franchise—was part of that struggle. Five months later, the environment remains unpredictable, but the legacy brand views the unprecedented situation as an opportunity.

The company is moving forward with a development strategy to open more than 30 locations through 2024, targeting areas like Southern California; New England; Texas; Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Breckenridge, Colorado; and Des Moines, Iowa. Melting Pot currently has 104 stores in 31 states, Canada, and Mexico. All but two of those locations are franchised.

“The premise of it really started in 2019 to try to engage on a higher level all of our development strategies,” says David Boatright, senior director of franchise development at parent company Front Burner. “We just felt like Melting Pot has so much to offer. So many positives, that it’s probably one of the best brands nobody’s ever heard of.”

Melting Pot was prepared to pull the trigger on the strategy prior to COVID, but Boatright says the onset of the pandemic neutralized the strategy—but only temporarily. He notes that as the team looked at territories, it began to see patterns. If the company could find the right candidate, there were several opportunities to expand Melting Pot to a different level.

And as the restaurant continued to pour over these possible expansion areas, Boatright says now felt like the best time to start broadcasting.

"I think surprisingly a lot of people don’t know we do franchise,” Boatright says. “We just want to get the word out to let them know we are going to be aggressively looking for these candidates. … The food is really good. We’ve got things like Mississippi-style dry rub pork, we have shrimp, we have teriyaki marinated steak, garlic pepper steak, herb chicken. We even have lobster. So when you come out and eat at Melting Pot, you’re getting a quality product. Just a phenomenal experience. I think that’s what really made us stay around as long as we have because we’re so family-friendly. If you want to take somebody out on a date it’s the perfect setting.”

The franchising strategy coincides with Melting Pot’s remodeling program, which gives restaurants a refreshed and contemporary atmosphere in addition to a new logo and branding. Melting Pot only has a dinner daypart, but Boatright said the refresh could involve adding a lunch menu depending on the location.


The company said franchisees that opt in can either utilize the entire suite of new designs or be selective in what they choose to incorporate. The restaurant plans to roll the brand evolution out to all locations by 2022.

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is getting more agile with brand design.

The COVID crisis has also informed decisions in terms of how future stores may operate, particularly when it comes to off-premises.

Before COVID, Boatright says Melting Pot didn’t have a to-go or delivery system. However, early into the pandemic senior leadership put together a comprehensive plan, and a program—including an exclusive partnership with DoorDash—was rolled out in less than three weeks for franchisees.

Boatright explains that moving forward, all stores will have the opportunity to expand their revenue stream.

“There’s a lot of different innovations that are going on,” he says. “I can’t share that right now, but these are things that we know that in the future, we’re just going to be innovative with what we can do to help not only satisfy the customers’ needs, but help our franchisees be successful.”

With countless restaurants unable to survive the pandemic, many operators foresee favorable real estate in the post-pandemic landscape—another reason why Boatright thinks now is the time for Melting Pot to make a move.

He also notes that the talent pool—which was slim pre-COVID—will be full of candidates who’ve been laid off.

“These are really skilled people in our industry that we really want to obtain,” Boatright says. “And not only that, you may have some husband and wife teams who are making some career changes due to this pandemic. And so what a perfect way to get involved into a franchise.”

As Melting Pot draws inquiries, Boatright says the team will look for those already in the restaurant industry and are trying to diversify their portfolio. But more importantly, the restaurants want to find those that fit into the culture and value customer service, cleanliness, and consistency.

The brand is willing to accept operators who may not have that requisite experience because it can leverage more than 50 workers from its restaurant support center to assist franchisees in getting up to scale.

Of course, there are some financial commitments that are required, and candidates have to meet those minimums, but Boatright says Melting Pot wants to know the individual or group and really understand how the restaurant and operator can be a good fit for each other.

“It’s a little bit different from a [quick-service restaurant] where one owner may have to develop five or six locations,” Boatright says. “When we go into a particular market it’s typically going to be one and even if it’s a heavily dense area, it’s probably no more than two or three at best. This is going to be a major work process to get from stage one to stage 100, but this individual really needs to understand who we are and what we bring to the table, and then we need to understand how we can help them be successful in whatever value they bring to the table.

“… I think when somebody is looking to diversify their portfolio or they’re looking for something that’s simple to use, easy to manage, and has the legacy experience behind it, I can’t think of another brand that I would choose.”