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From Fortune 500 Financial Services to Melting Pot Frachisee

When their go-to location announced it would be closing, Daina Senatore and Jonathan Reeve jumped in, becoming franchisees to keep fondue franchise ope.

After seeing a notification that their local Melting Pot restaurant would be closing, Daina Senatore and Jonathan Reeve were researching ownership with the brand the same day. As a blended family with five kids, the group had long used The Melting Pot as their go-to place for celebratory meals and couldn’t stand to see it leave Connecticut.

After a bit more research and conversations with Collin Benyo, franchise growth specialist at The Melting Pot, the pair decided to sign for a single location in New Haven with hopes to further expand in the future. Now, as they search for real estate, they’re working to have their first Melting Pot restaurant up and running in the next 12–15 months.

1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

SenatoreI’ve been in the financial information services space pretty much all of my career, starting from data entry to product management for a Fortune 500 company. I continue in my career as a business management consultant at a company called TCS. I help my clients to reach their business goals using IT, so I go into companies and try to see what problems they’re looking to solve. We see how my organization can help them with their strategy.

We’re big fans of the Melting Pot brand in general. We didn't necessarily know the brand, but we knew the restaurant. It’s somewhere our family loves to frequent for our celebrations. When we heard that the previous location was closing, we were super sad. I started thinking about the opportunity, reached out to The Melting Pot through their website and said I had interest. 

Reeve: Similarly, I work in financial services information. I’ve been doing that for 25 or so years, really leading product teams to build information products like data and information tools that help bankers and investment managers do analyses. As Daina mentioned, we love the Melting Pot brand. We’ve also worked together in the past and always thought we made a good team as it related to running a family and in business projects. We thought it’d be super fun to work on this project together as a team and family.

In addition, my son, Joshua, is going to school at Johnson and Wales, pursuing a degree in culinary and restaurant management. With the combination of our executive corporate skills and his training in culinary arts, we think the three of us can do a really good job. We put together a business plan after we contacted Collin, highlighting the three of us in that format. The rest is history. 

Senatore: We really want this to be a family-and-friend initiative. A lot of the other owners do the same. There are a lot of trusted employees and people that become part of your Melting Pot family. We’re very much keen on continuing with that trend and ensuring this is a family-friendly atmosphere.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

SenatoreI have researched franchises in the past. I do think that we have an entrepreneurial type of mentality. At the time, we were both full-time employees. We thought that owning our own business would be nice. We talk a lot about not having to work for other people and work for ourselves. That’s super appealing, but taking on your own business seems like a lot. Franchising seemed like a really nice way to take a brand and process that’s been proven and execute on that.

Reeve: In my early days, before college, I actually took part in a franchise opening in our town. I saw what that franchise did in terms of bringing in people from the head office, training and rolling out the system so that everything was orderly. I started out as kitchen staff and made my way to being a waiter. From that experience, it impressed on me that when you work with a franchise, a lot of the details about how to run a business — where to order from, for example — is decided. You have to execute, but you’re not doing everything from scratch — a combination of wanting to do something together because we do work well together. My experience with franchises. The love of the brand. The fact that there isn’t a single store in Connecticut. That all came together to present a brilliant opportunity.

I think what Melting Pot impressed upon us is the infrastructure and services they offer to new franchisees. My understanding is that it is not always as robust as what Melting Pot offers. If you're thinking about franchising, you want to make sure you understand what you get for your franchise fee. They need a track record of being successful. Investigate that.

Senatore: You can say Melting Pot has less than 100 stores across the U.S., and you look at that and say, “That's not a huge number compared to some of these other franchises.” But the misnomer is that maybe that's because they can't or do not want to grow to that size. But this is a 40-year-old brand. What I take from that is you really have to understand the process in which they vet people to franchise, and that means a lot. They are looking for the right kind of people, not a high number of people. That's very appealing because you're in good company that feels as though you've been hand-selected versus just having a certain amount of money. The process we went through was really robust. They protect their brand, and I think you want to look for places like that

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

SenatoreI didn't even know what franchising was or what that meant, but I knew that we loved the restaurant and didn’t want it to go away. Collin [Benyo] wrote back, and we’re here based on his and Melting Pot’s support. We’re excited about this new chapter in our life where we’ll go from financial information management to opening a restaurant and building the Melting Pot brand in Connecticut.

Reeve: We went down to Melting Pot in Tampa. They were super supportive. We met the CEO, Bob Johnston, who invested a lot of his personal time in connecting with us. Even though we didn't have specific restaurant or franchise experience, this was something we could do and have a lot of fun with.

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

SenatoreI think long-term this is where we’d like to be, and we have aspirations to expand. We joke about having multiple stores and branching out to the point that every kid has one. That may just be a playful conversation on our part, but we do think about expansion and how we can become more incorporated with the brand. We have goals of multiple stores and this becoming a real business for us, not just one location.

We’ve worked all of our lives in Corporate America. I think most people think that starting a restaurant is a career. For us, we’re on-the-go type of people that like to keep busy. I don’t know if our minds could take turning off and retiring completely. This is a great way to stay connected and do something for ourselves and our family that directly affects us and keeps our minds going. This is our retirement strategy. It’s odd that we would take on this work, but together, this is something that we can do into retirement to keep ourselves active and motivated. For us, it’s not just a job but a second career.

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

SenatoreJonathan and I have been friends and colleagues since 2010. He was my boss. Then, we both left our companies and moved on to other things but stayed friends. Over the years, we became extremely good friends. Three years ago, our situations changed and we became more than friends. We’ve been dating for about three years. We’re engaged to be married in August, and we’re going to be a blended family. We’ve built that foundation and are now moving forward to the next level. Our friendship and history is a nice foundation to support us in moving forward for lots of things.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

SenatoreA lot of times, people have apprehensions of the unknown. Franchising in general is something that, if that is how you feel, it’s a good path to take because there are a lot of unknowns that are solved for you already. You don't have to come up with your own business and idea. These are things that are all proven out with Melting Pot, especially over a long period of time. Franchising is a good way to move forward with less apprehension because some of these problems have been solved already. When we started this, it was super scary. It’s a lot less scary now that we’ve jumped in. People should just take a chance if they have any inkling.

Reeve: I would say explore your curiosities, and don’t hesitate. We’re just getting started, but to some extent, I wish we would've done it three or even 10 years ago. 

What was also useful is that Melting Pot gives us access to other franchise owners, so we reached out to many of them and had conversations about their experience. That helps not only thinking about the logistics and mechanics, but they're all very happy. There are multiple franchisees with multiple stores, and that says something. That feeling that the people that have tried the franchise love it and continue to do more also filled us with confidence.

Total investments range from $1.3 million–$1.5 million. For more information on costs to buy this franchise, please visit

About Melting Pot 

Founded in 1975, Melting Pot has offered a unique fondue dining experience for more than 45 years. As the premier fondue restaurant franchise, Melting Pot has 94 restaurants in 31 U.S. states and Canada. Known for offering a variety of fondue cooking styles and unique entrées, Melting Pot’s menu also features cheese fondues, salads, fine wines, spirits and chocolate fondue desserts. Fondue fans can join Melting Pot’s Club Fondue for exclusive promotions, special events and advance holiday reservation privileges. Melting Pot is an affiliate of Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company headquartered in Tampa, Florida. For more information, visit To learn more about franchise opportunities with Melting Pot, visit