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.”