The Melt disrupts the concept of grilled-cheese-and-soup

Rocky McGredy discusses how The Melt, a new chain of grilled-cheese-and-soup fast-casual restaurants founded by Jonathan Kaplan--Flip video founder-turned restaurateur, measures up.

Recently, the staff of 5 Blogs Before Lunch took a field trip to investigate a new “comfort food” establishment in San Francisco called The Melt. I don’t feel right calling it a fast food establishment, but I also don’t feel right calling it a sit-down restaurant. The Melt is an entirely new breed of eatery. If it’s not their all-things-grilled-cheese-and-soup menu that gets you, it’s how incredibly cool they are that will.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Melt when you walk in is how familiar it feels. Now, I’ve only been to one location and I’m not sure if every other one is a cookie cutter, but I’m saying I’d be alright if each location was identical. The light friendly tones of maple-wood, and the white brick walls make me think of an ice cream parlor. Not to mention their logo is reminiscent of an era when businesses felt they had to prove themselves reliable, not to show how sleek and shiny they were.

Though the design choices may be a throwback, the way The Melt works is not a throwback at all. It’s sort of like Star Trek. I mean, not like Star Trek in the sense like I feel like I’m in outer space. That would be geeky. I mean, like Star Trek in the sense that the universe has been developed in a way that technology is an aide in every aspect of society. Making each external action easier and more instantaneous. Okay, the Star Trek reference is still geeky.

As soon as you order your meal and provide your initials, the progress of the preparation your meal is displayed on a digital board hanging in the store. You also have the ability to order online and scan a QR code in store to skip the line. The soda fountains are comically sized beer taps, allowing you to select a soda and then pull the lever to dispense.

As for the food, the soups are pureed together, giving them an interesting colorful look but they still manage to taste like what they’ve been labeled as. Every utensil you use has the ability to either be composted or recycled, and when you purchase your meal the cashier asks you to round up your tax to the next dollar and donate it to a cause. It’s truly a unique experience to visit this establishment. It’s very apparent that The Melt had a clear business strategy in mind when they opened their first shop. This is no mom-and-pop venture.

So, how does The Melt manage to do it? This was clearly the creative brain-child of someone trying to build a lasting business. The Melt is the new fast food. It’s the “disruptive technology” that’s going to put the McDonalds’ of the world to shame. It would only make sense for such an idea to come from Jonathan Kaplan, who also disrupted the HD camcorder market with Flip video. Which, in case you forgot, was a company that Cisco bought at one point for $590 million. Congratulations Jonathan.

Even better, I think that this is just the beginning. Remember how a million affordable HD camcorders sprouted up after the Flip? I think we might see some similar food establishments in the near future. Hell, Super Duper Burger feels a tiny bit like The Melt already. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d mind seeing Ronald grimace... or the Colonel fry.

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