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How a Family Legacy With Melting Pot Has Translated Into a Successful Career for This Florida Franchisee

Rob Johnston, who now co-owns and operates the Tallahassee restaurant with his brother, is part of the second generation carrying on the legacy after his father and uncles launched the franchise in 1985.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSOREDUpdated 7:07AM 03/25/24

The Melting Pot restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida, is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, and it’s still run by members of the Johnston family. Melting Pot, the now-93-unit fondue franchise, started in 1985 when brothers BobMike and Mark Johnston bought rights to the brand and launched the franchise company. Over the span of several decades, the franchise has built an expansive network of restaurants nationwide without losing sight of its familial roots. 

“We call the system the ‘Melting Pot family’ for multiple reasons,” said Bob, who now serves as CEO of Front Burner Brands, the restaurant management company affiliated with Melting Pot. “We have a close-knit, supportive team that resembles family, but we also have franchisees in the system who have built incredibly successful family businesses. There are many stories of family legacy and generational growth with Melting Pot.”

Rob Johnston, one of Mark’s sons who now owns and operates the Tallahassee location in partnership with his brother, Ryan, perfectly illustrates the rich legacies that are created, and continue to flourish, through the Melting Pot model.

“I grew up in the restaurant. My dad was one of the three who started franchising, so we were in the restaurant quite a bit. I have memories of Melting Pot as early as I can remember,” said Rob. “As a teenager and young adult, I began working in the restaurants more and discovered that I had a true passion for guest service and hospitality. At this point, the system was already pretty big, and I was lucky enough to have a segue to further my restaurant career.”

Rob’s first official Melting Pot job was as a busser, and he grew into a role as a server during college. Eventually, his uncle Mike was looking to retire. He had spent his whole career working in the Tallahassee restaurant, and when he decided to step back, he gave Rob and Ryan an opportunity to work to own the location.

“So, in 2013, my brother and I went to Tallahassee and spent a few years learning how to operate a restaurant from scratch,” explained Rob. “We had guidance from our family and, eventually, we were able to purchase that location from my dad and uncle. We stepped into our first roles as operators as we also became owners.”

Over the past 11 years, the brothers have been able to build strong teams and processes. While they’re still involved in the business, Rob says it’s nice to be able to trust the leaders they have in place and take a step back.

He had to build sweat equity to step into ownership and continued to work diligently to oversee a thriving team and restaurant, but now Rob is reaping the benefits of his hard work, noting that he can tuck his kids into bed five nights a week — something that not a lot of restaurant leaders can do.

“I’m very happy and comfortable with the life I’ve built,” he said. “I love having the free time that I do to spend time with my kids and my family, and I’m equally proud to know that I’m carrying on this legacy that my dad and uncles worked so hard to start.”

Looking toward the future, Rob says that he would love to see his kids enjoy the same level of freedom and fulfillment that he does, and he sees Melting Pot as a viable option for them.

“Restaurants aren’t for everyone. I don’t want my kids to pursue this if it’s not a legacy that they will truly enjoy carrying on. But if they see it as a way to be as happy in their own careers as I am in mine, that would be awesome,” he said. “There are some stepping stones and a path that they will need to take, but I would certainly support them in that journey.”

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