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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Melt: Meet Jonathan Kaplan's Futuristic Grilled Cheese Chain

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 4:48 PM

click to enlarge The Melt's sharp cheddar on potato bread and tomato basil soup.
  • The Melt's sharp cheddar on potato bread and tomato basil soup.

Even though we're tired of the "There's an app for that" catchphrase, SFoodie's ears still perked up when we heard about an app that allows us to order grilled cheese sandwiches. What can we say? We write a food blog for a reason.

The person who brings us this magical grilled cheese app/restaurant is Jonathan Kaplan. The founder of the now discontinued Flip cam is getting out of the minicam business and into the restaurant business. But, like most tech bros, he plans to incorporate his love of technology into his next phase. How so? Well, he's opening the first of his fast and casual chain restaurants -- The Melt -- here in San Francisco.

Secondly, this new dining concept features innovations in cooking and speedy ordering. Customers will order and pay in the Melt's app and then head to the actual restaurant, when an employee will scan their phones and hand over the grub. The actual cooking doesn't happen until the phone is scanned, so food is always piping hot. Plus, it only takes a minute to cook. How is that possible? The secret is a custom machine that incorporates the functions of two induction burners, a microwave oven, and silpats to make the perfect grilled cheese in minutes. Crazy!

Kaplan unveiled a live demo of his system yesterday at the annual D9 All Things Digital Conference, where attendees placed online orders and sampled the food. Let us tell you, these were no ordinary grilled cheeses. The menu was developed with help from chef/board member Michael Mina, and you can tell. Custom breads were paired with tasty cheeses and a hefty coating of "Melt Salt," a special Parmesan-based seasoning. Delicious.

Kaplan said prices will be affordable -- $5 for a grilled cheese sandwich and $8 for a soup and sandwich combo. The Bay Area will be the testing ground, with five restaurants set to open between August and November. After a test run here, expect to see stores in Boston, Seattle, Portland, and New York City. Kaplan hopes to eventually have 500 stores. An ambitious plan, to be sure, but if he succeeds, you'll never want for grilled cheese on the go again. And don't worry, if you're living in 2005 or have a Nokia (or both!), you can also order the conventional way.

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Luis Chong


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