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How Melting Pot Became America’s Go-To Restaurant for Special Occasions

Purveyors of "polished casual" dining and experts in chocolate and cheese, the quintessential fondue franchise has become the nation's ultimate celebration spot.

Nothing says “Party time!” quite like fondue. And Melting Pot, the fondue franchise that strives to turn moments into memories with every fondue pot served, has transformed fondue into more than just a meal — it makes fondue an experience that brings people together.

Melting Pot has been sharing its unique dining experience, streamlined menu and forward-thinking model across North America for more than 45 years. Now, after expanding to almost 100 locations, the established brand has become a staple for family get-togethers, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, romantic dinners and other special occasions.

The Melting Pot concept takes advantage of what people are interested in when they dine out, which is more than just a meal. People don’t just want to satisfy their appetite when they go out; they want more than that,” said Bob Johnston, CEO of Melting Pot. “We have a concept that offers a unique dining experience, one that's social, fun and delicious.”

How Melting Pot’s Tasty Fondue Feasts Created a New Segment in the Restaurant Industry

Since 1975, Melting Pot has been the country’s classic, fan-favorite fondue dining experience. Its very first location opened its doors in Maitland, Florida with a simple menu of Swiss cheese fondue, beef fondue and chocolate fondue. The restaurant’s atmosphere was cozy and quaint, and it quickly grew in popularity. 

One enterprising waiter, a college student named Mark Johnston, saw the business’ boom as a lucrative opportunity and endeavored to open a second location. After receiving permission from the original owners, Johnston enlisted the help of his brothers Bob and Mike and developed enough funds to open a second Melting Pot in Tallahassee in 1979, where Bob worked as a dishwasher. Eventually, the Tallahassee restaurant was successful enough to warrant opening a third location in 1981, this time in Tampa.

By 1985, the Johnston brothers were ready to purchase the rights to Melting Pot and establish an incorporated franchise company. Following a year of reorganization, research and planning, Melting Pot began offering the enormously popular fondue restaurant as a food franchise opportunity. Seeking out energetic, passionate entrepreneurs, the Johnston brothers built a family of fondue franchisees who were excited about and committed to the concept.

“When I became a dishwasher at my brothers' Melting Pot restaurant in Tallahassee, I would have never guessed that I would one day be the CEO of the restaurant management company for The Melting Pot,” said Bob. “It wasn't until I was afforded the opportunity to provide service to guests that I fell in love with franchising and the restaurant industry.”

Since then, Melting Pot has continued to grow to nearly 100 locations and is now under the umbrella of Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company headquartered in Tampa that is also owned by the Johnston brothers. Front Burner Brands leverages extensive franchise and restaurant industry expertise to support Melting Pot franchises worldwide, as well as other brands.

How Melting Pot Continues to Stand Out in the Dining Segment

When guests sit down at Melting Pot, they dip into an interactive dining experience like no other. Melting Pot makes any meal stellar by offering an epicurean fondue experience, featuring an unmatched combination of tastes. But what truly sets the brand apart is its socially inviting atmosphere. Guests have the opportunity to turn moments into memories by sharing each course with one another.

At Melting Pot, the dining experience and food are designed around the guest — they get to create unique pairings and customize their menu however they like, with up to four courses. Menu items include artisan cheeses, breads, wines, salads, entrées and chocolate combined with different cooking styles and sauces. The brand also accommodates any dietary restrictions, with gluten-free options available at every restaurant.

“The nature of the Melting Pot concept is to encourage conversation and engagement among guests,” said JC Crawford, executive vice president of franchise and restaurant operations for Front Burner Brands. “Our mission centers around improving the quality of the guest experience.”

To maintain a consistent level of quality, Melting Pot launched an "Exceptional Food Initiative" in 2015, partnering with Kindred Creamery and Cacao-Trace® to source its dairy products. Kindred Creamery, based out of Wisconsin, is known for its one-of-a-kind Cows First™ program. Kindred Creamery believes when cows are treated right, their milk is of the highest standard and produces high quality cheese in a sustainable manner. Cacao-Trace® helps cocoa farmers earn a sustainable living through the Next Generation Cacao Foundation and focuses on the post-harvest fermentation of cocoa beans to produce superior tasting chocolate. These partnerships ensure that Melting Pot products are as fresh as possible, while also allowing customers to feel good about supporting sustainable businesses.

We are proud to provide our guests exceptional ingredients in an engaging atmosphere,” said Shak Turner, senior director of franchise development for Front Burner Brands. “We work consistently with our suppliers on increasing the quality, variety and sustainability of our ingredients.”

How Melting Pot Is Paying Its Good Fortune Forward

The Melting Pot has a mission to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why it partnered with St. Judes Children’s Hospital in 2003.

One of the ways Melting Pot supports St. Jude is through the annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign. From mid-October to the end of December each year, guests have an opportunity to donate to the kids of St. Jude when they dine at any of the Melting Pot restaurants nationwide. For every $10 donated, guests receive a Donate & Dine card valid for $20 off a future purchase of $50 or more at Melting Pot.

Additionally, each year, Melting Pot sends top-fundraising team members from across the nation during the previous year's St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign to Memphis to tour the hospital and serve chocolate fondue to St. Jude patients and their families at a special fondue party.

"Through these collaborative efforts among all of our restaurants, each of our guests have an opportunity to make a significant impact in helping St. Jude children fight cancer and other deadly diseases," said Johnston. "Our family of restaurants and team members are very excited to know that their dedication and hard work touches the lives of so many children." 

Today, Melting Pot has raised more than $13 million for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, thanks to the generous support of team members and customers who make this meaningful contribution possible for the kids of St. Jude.

The total initial investment required to open a Melting Pot restaurant under the Franchise Program (excluding real estate purchase costs) is $1,339,023 - $1,587,201. For more information, visit: