This Restaurant Chain Is Plotting Its 2024 Comeback

The Melting Pot hopes you want to dip the night away with a romantic and retro dish.

When it comes to running a restaurant, playing on diners' sense of nostalgia is always a good bet. Lately we've been seeing this type of marketing mostly play out in the fast food sphere, as discontinued items and promotional characters make their way back to a menu near you. But now, Eater reports that a once popular sit-down restaurant is aiming to convince us that its retro-chic cuisine is perfect for any night of the week. That restaurant is The Melting Pot, and it wants to make sure you know its signature fondue is great for sharing among friends or splitting with your date.

The Melting Pot is aiming big in 2024

The Melting Pot was established in 1975 in Maitland, Florida, and since then it has focused on one thing: fondue. If you haven't thought of either this restaurant chain or fondue in a long time, you're not aloneā€”I haven't been out for fondue in decades. For me, the concept has always felt like a dining fad from before I was born, a bit of kitschy fun but an overall limited gimmick.

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But the evolution of dining trends isn't the only reason The Melting Pot is fighting for relevance in a modern restaurant landscape. If there was any type of establishment that got hit hard during the pandemic, surely it's one designed for groups to gather in a confined space around a shared pot of cheese, which they can linger over and, if they're rude, double-dip into.

In 2020, the company had just started an initiative called Melting Pot Evolution, a planned $30 million investment that would see redesigned dining rooms and an updated menu. Then the pandemic began. Fondue isn't exactly the ideal takeout food, and the chain took a catastrophic hit in sales. But the company stuck to the scheduled renovations, and after those were complete, diners came back in droves once dining restrictions were eased.

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The Melting Pot still wants to be a place for celebratory dinners and romantic dates alike, but it's also been branching out into consumer packaged goods (in partnership with Omaha Steaks) so people can try fondue at their own dining room tables. The chain is also offering hefty financial incentives to new and current franchisees that plan to open a new space.

If a franchisee commits to a new Melting Pot location and executes a lease within a nine-month period, they'll only pay $5,000 out of the usual $50,000 franchisee fee per unit (paid back as a rebate upon lease signing). If a franchisee manages to execute the lease within six months, they'll also pay a smaller royalty rate of 3% to The Melting Pot for its first year in operation.

This deal isn't quite as dramatic as, say, Boston Market's current franchise strategy, but it certainly does indicate some pretty high hopes for this year and a strong desire to get fondue into more markets. And who knows? With new menu items, a fresher look, and at-home kits available for purchase at the grocery store, fondue might just enter (or re-enter) the average diner's regular restaurant rotation.

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