bannerFranchisee Stories

Mastering a Diverse Portfolio: Melting Pot Franchise Serial Restaurant Entrepreneurs and Hotel Investors Have Done it All

Jay and John Supple grew up in the restaurant industry and, with their wives and family team, recognized the value a Melting Pot franchise could add to their portfolio and how it also complements a hotel investment.

By Erica InmanStaff Writer
8:08AM 03/26/24

Jay and Heidi Supple are serial entrepreneurs with a wide range of restaurants and hospitality projects in their portfolioJay was born into a family of franchisees and grew up in the restaurant business. He and his two brothers, John and Joe, have kept the family tradition of business ownership alive for decades. With an extensive background of franchising with Shakey's Pizza, Jay and John — along with Jay’s wife, Heidi, and John’s wife, Doreen —  have taken on a slew of entrepreneurial ventures together over the past three decades, including independent restaurant ownership, projects for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and a brewery concept, with wholesale distribution throughout Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Jay’s oldest brother, Joe, who has cerebral palsy, is a key partner in the family’s business ownership experiences and is an ambassador in all they do. Out of all the concepts the entrepreneurial trailblazers have taken on, franchising with Melting Pot stands out.

The couples began franchising with the fondue chain in 2003 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Beyond investing in restaurants, the Supples are investors in a Hilton Garden Inn hotel. The expert entrepreneurs highlighted the value for existing hotel operators to add a Melting Pot location either onsite to their hotels or into their portfolios like they did. Either way, the Melting Pot delivers a unique, interactive experience to guests, which is something that is in very high demand.

“Hotels have to sell more than a room and restaurants have to sell more than just food,” said Jay. “It’s all about the experience now. Everyone wants something extra and unique.”

Pairing an investment in a hotel with that of a restaurant is a smart move. Developers who build hotels want to develop a whole destination around that hotel. For this reason, developers will approach existing restaurant owners looking to bring a restaurant into their hotels or into their investment portfolio. 

Melting Pot pairs particularly well with hotel concepts because it requires only a prep kitchen, so there is no need for grease traps or venting systems; this makes it an easy addition to hotel concepts. In addition, the interactive dining experience of gathering around a fondue pot is unique and enjoyable for hotel guests and other visitors alike. 

The interactive element was one that Jay and Heidi knew was a winner from the first moment they discovered the concept.

“Jay read an article about the Melting Pot,” said Heidi. “It was this fascinating fondue restaurant. We thought it was absolutely crazy how unique it was. We immediately dropped off our daughter, who was a year and a half, with his parents and drove to the nearest location in Schaumburg, Illinois, to go have dinner and get a tour of the kitchen and everything. Monday morning, Jay called up the COO and said, ‘I want to do this.’”

For the Supples, the Melting Pot plays a key role in the success of their diverse portfolio and has done so for 20 years now. After all this time, the couple still credits the interactive nature of the concept.

“Melting Pot is such a destination in itself,” said Heidi. “The experience is within the booth and around the pot.”

The Supples immediately saw the potential in the experiential model and have benefited from the stability of the brand for two decades. They appreciate the brand’s continued success in bringing out products that enhance the guest experience. The seasoned entrepreneurs just recently broke the 20-year sales record for the brand on Valentine’s Day and look forward to continued growth and success within their location for years to come.

1851 Franchise spoke with the Supples about their franchising journey with Melting Pot and their plans for the future. 


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

Heidi: Jay's parents were involved with franchising, and they opened three Shakey's Pizzas in 1968. Their three sons grew up in the restaurant business, actively participating from a young age. Eventually, Jay and his brother, John, took over as managers of two of the Shakey's Pizza properties, with their older brother, Joe, who has cerebral palsy, serving as a partner and ambassador. Jay, John, Doreen (John’s wife) and myself decided to venture into independent concepts, starting with a brewery concept in 1995. 

Jay: Our brewery was something like the 15th to open in Wisconsin; now there are around 10,000 in the US. 

Heidi: Over time, we explored various concepts, including concessions at the Timber Rattler Stadium, some projects for the Green Bay Packers, our two Fox River Brewing Co. locations in Appleton and Oshkosh, plus Fratellos Waterfront in Appleton where we converted a hydro-elective water plant.. 

In 2003, Jay came across an article about Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant chain, and found it fascinating. Intrigued by the unique concept, we dropped everything and drove to the nearest location in Illinois to check it out, and we immediately fell in love with the concept. 

Jay: We spoke to the corporate team and they joked that we might be overqualified because we had so much experience with independent business ownership, especially with concepts that required a full kitchen, whereas Melting Pot only requires a prep kitchen. 

We really believed in the brand and its interactive dining experience; it stood out from their other concepts and didn’t have any competition in the area.

1851: How do restaurant brands make their way into hotels?

Jay: There are so many developers out there who build hotels and they have an interest in putting a restaurant inside a hotel. Hotels have to sell more than a room; COVID changed people's perspective on dining out and staying in hotels. It’s all about the experience now. Everyone wants something extra and unique. That’s why Melting Pot itself has done a great job, because it offers an experience but the brand also has come out with unique cocktails and other products that add to the experience. They are always trying to add to that “wow” factor. Everyone wants to share photographs on social media and Melting Pot tailors to that and it pairs well with a hotel stay experience.

1851: What is the best way to connect with hotel operators who may have interest in adding a brand like Melting Pot into existing hotel space or adjacent hotels?

Jay: Get some articles written and put out a press release to hotels. Bob Johnston, Melting Pot’s CEO, is such a down-to-earth guy. He is willing to speak to different people, and he and his team have some great contacts. 

Heidi: You should always do your research with location of course, because location matters, but Melting Pot is such a destination in itself. The experience is within the booth and around the pot. 

1851: Why does Melting Pot work well in partnership with hotels?

Jay: If there's one thing I've learned in over 40 years in the restaurant industry, it's that experiences sell best. At Melting Pot, cooking your own food and gathering around a fondue pot is a cool concept for people. 

It’s great for hotels because you don’t have to have ovens or a full kitchen; there is no need for venting or grease traps or flat tops. This makes cleanliness much more manageable, as well. It also means that a lot of the investment can go towards the front-of-house set up, which can be very attractive to hotels.

Your best option with Melting Pot is to get in with a hotel from the beginning, when they’re still building, because each table needs electrical connections for the fondue pots.

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

Heidi: We are currently focused on growing within our four walls, expanding our wholesale beer and growing our team. Our Melting Pot location broke record sales over Valentine’s day! Our management team is amazing and we are so proud of the culture we are building.

Jay: We always want to be better. We are always asking ourselves: how do we make our service and food better? We are always aiming to create an atmosphere and a culture people don’t want to leave.

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 93 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, please visit