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Comfort Food

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The Melt
San Francisco
Owner: Fish Six Restaurant Corp.
Locations: One


How can a restaurant whose first location opened in August distinguish itself enough to open 500 units in five years without franchising?

Jim Ryan, vice president of business development for fast-casual restaurant The Melt, says the trick is to offer popular comfort foods unique in quality, speed of service and affordable prices.

The Melt’s secret is a high-speed panini press that founder Jonathan Kaplan (creator of the Flip Video) helped develop. This press, Ryan says, turns out “perfectly evenly melted cheese ... on perfectly toasted artisan breads ... in about one minute.” Kaplan also helped develop the technology that makes it possible for customers to order directly from computers or mobile devices and pay upon pickup using their smartphones.

The first Melt is a 1,500 sq. ft. restaurant with Italian terrazzo floors, bright high ceilings, white glazed brick walls and seating for 35. Future restaurants, four of which will open in the San Francisco area before the end of the year, will be larger and seat 50 customers.

“Customers often come in with a smile in their face, and I think it has to do with grilled cheese,” says Ryan. “Grilled cheese and freshly made soups evoke memories of childhood and good times.”