The Untold Truth Of The Melting Pot

There are some restaurants where you'd be happy just picking up your order and leaving to go eat it at home. And while that's not a bad thing when it comes to a quick and easy weeknight dinner, there are other times when you're looking for something that's a little bit nicer. Of course, you want the food to be good, but it's about more than that — you want to go out and have an experience.

There are plenty of themed restaurants that fall into this category, but there's one chain that goes above and beyond in providing a fun and exciting dining experience. That restaurant is The Melting Pot. If you've been before, then you are already aware of what all the hype is about. If you haven't, you should know that it's a fondue place that offers a variety of cheese and chocolate sauces that you can dip different ingredients into. The food is delicious, yes, but the best part of the restaurant is the interactive dining experience.

But even if you've been there in the past, how much do you really know about The Melting Pot? We did a deep dive to uncover the truth about this popular chain, and we're here to share it with you. This is the untold truth of The Melting Pot.

There were only three items on the original menu

When you go to The Melting Pot these days, the menu can be kind of intimidating. It's not exactly as massive as The Cheesecake Factory's, but there's still a lot to choose from. However, when the restaurant first started out, patrons didn't have that problem. In fact, it was incredibly easy to decide what you wanted from the menu because there were only three options. Diners could choose from Swiss cheese fondue, beef fondue, and chocolate fondue dessert. (Hopefully, they picked all three!)

The restaurant opened in the spring of 1975 in Maitland, Florida, which is outside of Orlando. It wasn't like the large Melting Pot locations you see today — rather, it was on the smaller, cozier side. While the menu may have started out exceptionally short, as the restaurant got more and more popular in the local area, they started adding more options and paying more attention to the ambience of the dining area. It seems like that growth was a success.

A server took over the company

For a time, The Melting Pot was just one restaurant in Maitland, and the owners had no plans of expanding. Mark Johnston, a local college student, was working at the restaurant as a server. He was there all the time, and he started to realize how popular the restaurant was becoming. People seemed to love the food, and he saw that there could be a business opportunity in store for him there. So, with the help of his brothers Mike and Bob, he managed to raise enough money to open another Melting Pot location in Tallahassee in 1979. Of course, the owners of the original Melting Pot gave him their blessing.

The restaurant was enormously popular, and diners flocked to the spot to enjoy a unique restaurant experience. In just a year, the Johnston brothers knew that they wanted to expand even more. So, in 1981 the brothers opened another location, this time in Tampa, Florida. By 1985, they had purchased the rights to The Melting Pot and soon began to offer franchising opportunities.

The restaurant may have started small, but it's grown to be an extremely popular chain.

A former Melting Pot dishwasher is now the CEO

When most people start their first jobs as teenagers, they probably don't assume that they're going to stay with that company for the rest of their lives — and we'll guess that most don't assume that they're going to become the CEO one day. But according to Inc., that's exactly what happened to Bob Johnston, who is now the CEO of The Melting Pot. When his brothers opened The Melting Pot in Tallahassee, they needed someone to wash dishes in the back. Luckily, they had a little 14-year-old brother who needed a job, and that's how Johnston began his career at the restaurant.

He told Inc., "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. 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. I engaged our guests and in return became more engaged with The Melting Pot brand and service model."

Get comfortable because you're going to be there for a while

One thing you should know about The Melting Pot if you've never been there before: It's not exactly a fast food restaurant. We're not talking about the quality of the food, either; we're talking about the amount of time you're going to spend there when you go. While at some places, you may be able to get in, sit down, order your food, eat, pay the bill, and get out the door in little more than an hour, that's not likely to reflect the kind of experience you're going to have at The Melting Pot. Instead, if you make a reservation here, you should block out a few hours to ensure that you really have time to enjoy the experience.

Some diners say that you should expect to be there for at least two hours. Others say it's possible to be seated for three hours or more. Why does it take so long? Well, since you're preparing many of your dishes at your own table, it's not the quick and easy dining experience you might be used to. And if you order several courses, even more waiting is involved. However, spending all that time at the restaurant is part of the fun. Just make sure you plan in advance for a longer dinner, and sit back and relax when you get there.

You can eat The Melting Pot at home

In March of 2020, restaurants all over the country and in many parts of the world shut down completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn't safe to go out and dine in person, so people stayed home and made their own meals instead. Over the next few months, though, restaurants started working hard to find a way to prepare meals that people could enjoy in their own homes. For some restaurants, this was a relatively easy process. But for experiential restaurants like The Melting Pot, the solutions weren't always that simple.

However, the chain was able to successfully offer their dishes in a takeout format, The Melting Pot To-Go, so those who want to enjoy their fondue at home can easily do so. Now, just a disclaimer: You're not going to be able to get absolutely everything you'd find at The Melting Pot in a take-home format. Instead, the available dishes only include the cheese and dessert fondue. But considering how delicious those parts of the meal are, we certainly can't complain.

And the best part? You don't even need a fondue pot. The cheese and chocolate come out to your car already totally melted, so you can just get to dipping — we love how easy it is!

The Melting Pot partners with sustainable farmers

These days, "sustainability" is the new buzzword. As reports of climate change worsen, some businesses want to make sure that they are limiting their negative impact on the environment. We love it when restaurants pay close attention to where they're sourcing their ingredients, and according to 1851 Franchise, it appears that The Melting Pot is doing just that, at least when it comes to their cheese and chocolate. The company partners with Kindred Creamery, which is based out of Wisconsin, the cheese capital of the U.S. Kindred Creamery claims that they focus on treating their cows well and say that this approach produces better-quality cheese.

The Melting Pot also works with Cacao-Trace, a company that attempts to help cocoa farmers "earn a sustainable living." In addition, they also work hard to provide the restaurant with high-quality chocolate that tastes as good as possible.

The Melting Pot is kind of pricey, so it's good to know that you're actually getting solid ingredients for companies that try to do their part. Knowing your meal might be slightly more sustainable than some other alternatives is definitely a plus.

The company is trying to expand in the wake of COVID

In 2020, restaurants everywhere took a hit, and that was especially true for fine dining establishments. According to FSR Magazine, sales at high-end restaurants were down by a staggering 80% at the height of the pandemic shutdowns.

However, it's a testament to how successful The Melting Pot is that despite continued restrictions due to the pandemic, the chain continues to grow. FSR Magazine reported in 2020 that the company has plans to expand to 30 new locations by the end of 2024. David Boatright, the senior director of franchise development of The Melting Pot's parent company, said, "The premise of [the expansion] really started in 2019 to try to engage on a higher level all of our development strategies. We just felt like Melting Pot has so much to offer. So many positives, that it's probably one of the best brands nobody's ever heard of."

It's not all cheese and chocolate

When you think of fondue, the first thing that probably comes to mind is cheese. A fondue pot is generally filled to the brim with melted cheese you can dip your bread into. On second thought, you probably think of chocolate fondue, where you get to cover your favorite fruits and sweets like marshmallows into a pool of molten chocolate. That's good enough as it is, but did you know that The Melting Pot offers more than just the typical cheese and chocolate routine?

Take a closer look at the menu, and you'll see plenty of different entrees on offer. You can choose from a wide variety of bubbling broths to suit your taste. Then, you get to choose from a ton of different meat, seafood, and veggie options. The Classic will give you some of the most popular options on the menu, while the Land and Sea gives you a taste of surf and turf in a whole new way.

You'll be amazed by how flavorful the meat and veggies are once you take them out of the broth and dig in. It does take some patience while you wait for the different meats to cook, but it's well worth it when you finally start eating.

It makes a great date night spot

It's the end of the week and you're looking for something different to do with the one you love. Or perhaps you have a big celebration like a birthday or an anniversary coming up. Whatever the case may be, The Melting Pot is an excellent spot for a date night. First of all, there's the atmosphere. It's warm and welcoming, and it has that dim lighting that's a nice touch on a special night out. The dining areas tend to be intimate, so you can really relax and spend time communicating with each other.

But it's not all about the environment. The menu makes date night a breeze as well. There's a whole section on the menu for "Big Night Out Dinners for Two." There, you can choose from a selection of extravagant meals that are perfect for sharing with a loved one. These dinners come with a cheese fondue, a salad, an entrée, and a chocolate fondue. Don't worry — you can customize pretty much everything.

Plan a trip to The Melting Pot for date night, and chances are, it'll be a night to remember.

The Melting Pot is all over the U.S.

While the chain restaurant might have started as one small spot in central Florida, you no longer have to travel to the Sunshine State just to get delicious fondue. In fact, there's an excellent chance that you live somewhere near a Melting Pot. The chain boasts more than 100 restaurants, most of which are franchises. And instead of staying in one small part of the country, the company has expanded to reach all corners of the U.S. — from California and Minnesota, to Kentucky and Georgia.

But The Melting Pot doesn't just call the U.S. home. Canadians also get a chance to enjoy the "original" fondue restaurant if they take a trip to Edmonton. As the company continues to grow and expand, it'll be interesting to see where they end up next. If you don't yet have a Melting Pot in your area, keep an eye out for new locations popping up.

They have a timer on their website for an easier cooking experience

Going to The Melting Pot is definitely a fun experience, but there are factors you have to think about that probably wouldn't occur to you if you were going to a different kind of restaurant. For example, you're actually going to have to cook your own meat and seafood at the table if you choose to fondue. That's great because it allows you to cook your meat just the way you like. But on the other hand, it's up to you to ensure that you're cooking your meat for long enough. If you don't, there's a risk of food-borne illness, after all.

It can be difficult to know just how long you're supposed to cook every different type of meat you're served, so The Melting Pot decided to make things easier for you. You can visit their website to use their fondue timer. This application lets you choose the kind of meat you're cooking and then set a timer for it. When the timer goes off, you know it'll be ready to eat. This makes the cooking process super simple, and it eliminates all the guesswork so you can just sit back and enjoy your meal.

The Melting Pot partners with St. Jude's Children's Hospital

We love to see companies giving back, and luckily, The Melting Pot does its part when it comes to making the community a better place. The company has partnered with St. Jude's Children's Hospital which provides care to children with cancer and other ailments. And you can play a part in helping out too. From mid-October to December every year, the restaurant offers diners the chance to donate to the organization. Every time a customer donates $10, they get $20 off a future purchase of $50 or more at The Melting Pot. Doesn't sound like a bad deal, right?

Additionally, you can buy chocolate fondue wafers at The Melting Pot as well. These wafers cost $5 each, and $1 of that cost goes to St. Jude's. So, if you want to finish off your night with something sweet, this is a great way to fix your sweet tooth and do your part to donate to a great cause at the same time.