The Melting Pot, the 92-unit fondue franchise that has built a brand around providing a one-of-a-kind experiential dining atmosphere, has signed a franchise agreement in Bentonville, Arkansas. 

Chad Hickerson; his wife, Candice Bright; and his mother-in-law, Diana Bonnett, have signed an agreement to open the first Melting Pot location in Arkansas in the Bentonville area. The family, also local Bentonville residents, will be pioneering the restaurant’s growth as one element of a larger-scale effort to drive franchise expansion nationwide and reach 125 locations by 2026. 

Bright and Bonnett have successfully run residential care facilities in California, but when the entire family decided to relocate to Arkansas, they began downsizing that business venture. On a date night at the Sacramento Melting Pot location, Hickerson and Bright realized that their go-to restaurant would be their next opportunity. 

Now, the multigenerational trio has begun the development process to open the first Melting Pot restaurant in Arkansas. 

“We’ve been long-time Melting Pot guests. It’s a product that we all love and believe in, and it’s something that’s particularly suited for the Bentonville area,” said Hickerson. “Our goal is to bring something unique to the Northwest Arkansas area. We want to deliver a quality food and dining experience that will quickly become a hallmark of special occasions and even routine enjoyment for countless individuals, couples and families in the region and beyond. 

The Bentonville signing marks a significant milestone for the brand, as Melting Pot makes its entry into the state of Arkansas. 

“After years of strong unit-level growth, we are focused on revitalizing the brand nationwide, bringing Melting Pot restaurants to new communities and reviving and expanding our presence in others,” explained Bob Johnston, CEO of The Melting Pot. “Chad, Candice and Diana are a strong addition to our network, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have on the Bentonville community.”

A key driver of the brand’s growth in recent years has been the Melting Pot Evolution effort, a process through which the brand is redesigning, remodeling and hosting grand reopenings of every restaurant throughout the system. By leveraging a more welcoming floor plan and incorporating warm, playful elements like candles and fireplaces, the brand is modernizing its image while maintaining a strong, recognizable theme. 

After a strong 2023, with over 20% of restaurants reopening after a push to remodel, Melting Pot has continued to support growth in the system; the brand is on track to see a total of 37 remodeled reopenings this year alone. The franchisor has launched a new Franchisee Growth Incentive, offering new franchisees a compelling opportunity to join the Melting Pot family. The new Bentonville location, along with all new developments, will also embrace this new prototype. 

“When we started to undertake the remodel, we had a pretty wide variety of designs. The brand is a legacy brand, and some of our stores have not been updated since they opened in the early ‘80s,” explained Deborah Ramos, senior design manager at Front Burner Brands. “All of the stores were well-maintained, but the system felt a bit disjointed. We’re calling this remodeling effort Melting Pot Evolution because it’s reflective of how our system is growing and changing to better serve our franchisees and guests.” 

Observations of how the brand has continued to grow and evolve while maintaining its unique position in the market have been attractive to new franchise owners, encouraging them to join a brand that they feel will continue to offer a unique value proposition to both local owners and their guests. 

Looking to the remainder of the year, Johnston is hopeful. This year, Melting Pot aims to develop its presence in key states including Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky by awarding nine new franchises in key markets and opening another four. 

Chain Restaurants, Franchising, Growth, Industry News, Melting Pot