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Multi-Generational Family Team Unites to Open First Melting Pot Franchise in Arkansas

Chad Hickerson has teamed up with his wife and mother-in-law to bring a family favorite to their new Bentonville community.

Melting Pot, the 93-unit fondue franchise, is breaking into the Arkansas market with a new franchise agreement. Chad Hickerson, his wife Candice Bright and his mother-in-law Diana Bonnett have signed an agreement to open a new restaurant in the Bentonville area — a new business venture to accompany their recent relocation.

Bright and Bonnett have successfully run residential care facilities in California, but when the entire family decided to relocate to Arkansas, they began downsizing that business venture. On a date night at the Sacramento Melting Pot location, Hickerson and Bright realized that their go-to restaurant would be their next opportunity. 

Now, the multi-generational trio has begun the development process to open Arkansas’ first Melting Pot restaurant.

1851 Franchise spoke with Hickerson to learn more about his background and journey to franchising.


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

Hickerson: I’ve worked in hospitals and healthcare for 28 years. Candice is a board-certified behavioral analyst; she owns a consulting company and she and her mom (Diana) have owned and operated residential care facilities for children and adults with autism and behavioral disabilities for approximately 20 years. This was all taking place in California, when we made the decision to relocate to Arkansas.

About two years ago, right about the time we started planning on relocating, Candice and I were actually on a date at Melting Pot in downtown Sacramento. We looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we open a Melting Pot?”

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?

Hickerson: From a business standpoint, franchises tend to have a smart business model. And although restaurants can be a lot of fun, they’re typically a high risk business venture, so it’s great to have a robust franchise organization behind you.

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

Hickerson: We’ve been long-time Melting Pot guests. It’s our favorite destination, and it’s nothing for us to get in the car and drive two hours to have a meal there. It's a product that we all love and believe in, and it's something that's particularly suited for the Bentonville area.

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

Hickerson: Our goal is to bring something unique to the Northwest Arkansas area. We want to bring a quality food and dining experience that will quickly become a hallmark of special occasions and even routine enjoyment for countless individuals, couples and families in the region and beyond. 

We’ve talked about other areas of potential interest for additional Melting Pot locations. Little Rock and Branson, Missouri would both be an option. We want to get the first one up and running, obviously, but we’re definitely open to exploring the potential for expansion once the initial flagship restaurant is up and running.

I have not previously been a business owner. I’ve spent most of my career running other people’s businesses, but with my experience in business and the entrepreneurial spirit that Candice and Diana possess, we are more than ready to take on this new venture.

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

Hickerson: When Charlotte, who is two-and-a-half, was just a couple of months old, Candice said, “We’re going to have to start a business.” I said, “What do you mean?” because we were already talking about closing her businesses and leaving California. But we knew that we wanted to have another child, and she knew that our children need to grow up understanding what it’s like to build and grow a business, support a family, and invest in your community. They’ll work in the restaurant, and they’ll wash dishes just like I did when I was in high school.

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

Hickerson: The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. It’s easy to be afraid of something that you don’t understand, but for anyone who might be considering starting a business or opening a franchise — whatever the case may be — you can’t allow yourself to be fearful of the unknown. 

If you look around, there are successful businesses on almost every block. You just have to do your due diligence and understand the realities (Risk vs Opportunity) of what you’re investing in.

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