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The 48-year-old brand based out of Tampa, Fla., was struggling to feel relevant even before the pandemic happened. The solution was a rebrand.

How The Melting Pot is turning an experience from the ’70s into a modern night out

The casual-dining restaurant is going through a remodel across its 94 stores to make the brand seem fresh

The Melting Pot had an image problem, and the leaders knew it.

“If you have a brand that focuses on a culinary treat that started in the ’60s and ’70s, you don't want it to feel like you’re still in the ’60s and ’70s,” said Collin Benyo, The Melting Pot franchise growth strategist, to Nation’s Restaurant News.

The 48-year-old brand based out of Tampa, Fla., was struggling to feel relevant even before the pandemic happened. The solution was a rebrand.

The Melting Pot is currently under renovation, including updates to its 94 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

A part of Front Burner Brands, The Melting Pot was stagnant for a while and then COVID hit and the world stopped.

How did the eatertainment restaurant survive COVID? Lots of delivery and ingenuity.

Just before the pandemic, The Melting Pot had begun to test a to-go concept in the Tampa area which proved to be crucial for the next few years. It was this planning that allowed every The Melting Pot store to stay open during and after the pandemic.

The casual-dining chain is known for its fondue — that’s the founding element that the concept stands out for and which gives it its name. The fondue restaurant, which serves the dish with cheese or chocolate, allows customers to dip to their hearts’ content at the table.

“You know, being a legacy brand — we’ve been around for 48 years — you need to keep up with certain trends and things that are happening,” said Benyo. “Specifically, the atmosphere and what the buildings look like.”

The new updates are referred to internally as Melting Pot Evolution, or MPE. The main attributes of the new design are lighter color schemes and more brightness in the spaces — a departure from the chain’s original design in 1975, which was more focused on dark colors and spaces.

“It is a departure from what we originally were back in 1975 which was a little bit more closed off, a little bit darker, more intimate,” said Benyo. “That's not really ringing true with [consumers] any longer.”

Benyo also pointed out that the bar space has changed as the brand has evolved over the years. People used to only gather at the bar to get a quick drink while they were waiting for their table. Now, people are setting themselves up at the bar all night and eating their meal there, something The Melting Pot was not prepared for.

“We’ve taken notice of [the crowd at the bar eating] and so we need to make sure our bars are equipped and ready to handle people who want to come in and eat at that bar as opposed to inside the regular dining room for all those years,” he said.

Most of the remodel was designed with the customer in mind — mainly because it was done through customer feedback. The brand’s tech stack is also giving executives insights to what customers are looking for.

But what about franchisees? The heavily franchised brand has someone in mind when they look to sign an agreement, “someone who likes cheese and chocolate.”

The Melting Pot recently signed a franchisee agreement to expand in the New Haven area of Connecticut.

“The funny part about most of our franchisees is that they’re all people who had experiences with The Melting Pot, fell in love with it, and eventually just made the call to figure out more,” Benyo said.

That’s the key to the brand, he added. There could be a six-year-old going there for her birthday or an elderly couple celebrating their anniversary, but everyone has a reason to go to The Melting Pot.

“We connect with people better,” he said. “We are doing something different for experiential dining. People come in, slow down and enjoy the company.”

Benyo previously operated the Sarasota, Fla., location of The Melting Pot, so he has first-hand knowledge of what the brand offers for its guests.

Those passionate customers are the ones who come back time after time.

“There are just some people who are not going to find what we do their cup of tea, and that’s fine,” he said. “But when we find people who understand slowing down, enjoying things together, coming in and kind of making mile markers in their life in that restaurant, people just connect to that and how they eat at the restaurant.”

The brand is hoping to open 15 more stores by 2025.

“The Melting Pot is an opportunity to start that life to do to be your own boss, the American dream,” he said.

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