Home base: San Francisco
Key Players: Jon Kaplan, c.e.o.
First store: San Francisco; 2011
Units open: 15 stores and 4 buses
Growth plans: The Melt has an accelerated growth plan focused on launching several more California-based locations and a new market, outside of California, by the end of this year. All of the stores are company owned with no current plans for franchising.
Back story: The Melt’s core mission is “serving happiness,” or “food as experience versus food as fuel,” says Kerri Martin, v.p. of marketing.
The Melt was conceived by Jon Kaplan, who also invented the Flip camera. As the story goes, Kaplan wanted to make people happy with simple products and create surprising and delightful experiences.
He began researching whether grilled cheese could be a main food attraction for a national chain. He solicited customer opinions at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, and was reportedly elated by their responses.
“Grilled cheese is the ultimate American feel-good comfort food,” Martin says. “It elicits and creates vivid, happy and emotive childhood memories. Our founder believes Americans are going to continue to enjoy and should continue to enjoy these comfort foods, and should be able to do so with 100 percent all natural, fresh and wholesome ingredients.”
The Melt’s most popular sandwiches include the Mac Daddy (aged cheddar, smoked bacon and macaroni on artisan white); the Egg-In-A-Hole (aged cheddar and a farm fresh egg on sourdough); and the S'more (chocolate and marshmallow on artisan white).
The stores also serve soups, salads, soft-serve ice cream, milkshakes and Boylan’s All-Natural Cane Soda. Salads are topped with grilled cheese croutons.
"Great grilled cheese is simple but not easy,” Martin says. “It starts with the best aged cheeses and artisan breads, melted and toasted to perfection."