Fondue is more than just an appetizer—it can be the main culinary attraction! Founded in 1975, the Melting Pot offers entire meals revolving around fondue, like cheese and chocolate fondues, meats in dipping sauces, salads, and wines. Tables have flat-top burners for the fondue pots, and customers get a communal, interactive dining experience as they cook (and eat) their food right at the table. The chain of casual dining restaurants has over 125 locations across the United States and internationally.
1. THE FIRST MELTING POT FEATURED JUST THREE MENU ITEMS.
Opened in April 1975, the first location in Maitland, Florida (near Orlando) was a small operation. With just four tables, the restaurant offered three fondues on its menu: Swiss cheese, beef, and chocolate. When it proved successful, a second location of the Melting Pot opened nearby the next year.
2. A WAITER EVENTUALLY TOOK OVER THE WHOLE COMPANY.
The Tampa location in 1981. The Melting Pot via Twitter
In the late 1970s, Mark Johnston was working as a waiter at the Melting Pot to help pay for college. He loved working there so much that he convinced his brothers, Mike and Bob Johnston, to join him in opening a Tallahassee location. The three brothers did this in 1979, opening another location in Tampa in 1981, and eventually buying all rights to the Melting Pot restaurant chain in 1985.
3. BESIDES THE USUAL CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE FONDUE, THE CUSTOMIZABLE MENU INCLUDES COOK-IT-YOURSELF MEATS.
Patrons can order as many courses of fondue as they wish or opt for the “4 Course Experience” to get cheese fondue, salad, an entrée, and a chocolate fondue dessert. For the cheese fondue, which is served with bread cubes and vegetable dippers, options include cheddar (made with lager beer), alpine (made with white wine), and spinach artichoke. For dessert fondue, customers can choose between melted dark, milk, or white chocolate, chocolate with peanut butter or caramel, and s’mores. Dessert dippers are strawberries, bananas, pineapple, marshmallows, blondies, pound cake, and brownies.
Entrees like duck breast, salmon, shrimp, filet mignon, and ravioli are served with the Melting Pot’s dipping sauces, so you can cook the meat right at your table before dipping it into a warm sauce and taking a bite.
4. FONDUE FOR TWO IS A REAL AFFAIR.
For couples who like to serve each other strawberries dipped in chocolate, the Melting Pot offers special occasion packages for anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays. If you'd like to "gaze longingly into each other's eyes over a steamy pot of cheddar cheese fondue," as the company suggests, their Valentine's Day package allows customers to have roses or balloons waiting for them at a secluded table, where the restaurant’s dim lighting suggests a bit of privacy.
5. THE MELTING POT HAS TURNED ITS FONDUE INTO AN INTERNATIONAL DELICACY.
In 2010, the Melting Pot opened its first international locations in Canada and Mexico. In 2015, the fondue chain opened restaurants in Jakarta, Indonesia and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And more restaurants are scheduled to open in Indonesia (Jakarta and Bali) and the Middle East (Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman) in the next few years.
6. ALL OF THE MELTING POT’S CHEESES COME FROM A CREAMERY IN WISCONSIN.
High quality cheese is the first step toward achieving delicious fondue. All of the cheeses used at the fondue chain come from the Emmi Roth USA creamery in Monroe, Wisconsin—and with a motto like "A hug without a squeeze is like a day without cheese," we trust those happy cows provide some quality cheddar.
7. TODAY, TWO OF THE THREE JOHNSTON BROTHERS OVERSEE THE MELTING POT.
One of the three Johnston brothers, Bob, now serves as the CEO of Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company in Tampa, Florida that oversees the Melting Pot. Mike Johnston is Vice President of Front Burner Brands, but Mark Johnston left the company in 2014 to focus on running the hamburger chain Burger 21.
8. THE CHAIN HAS RAISED OVER $9 MILLION FOR ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL.
The Melting Pot partners with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by giving gift cards to customers who choose to donate to St. Jude and by selling chocolate fondue wafers to benefit the children’s hospital. The restaurant's employees who have raised the most money for the charity get to tour the hospital and serve chocolate fondue to patients and their families.
9. IF YOU CAN’T GET ENOUGH FONDUE, THE MELTING POT HAS OTHER ITEMS TO TIDE YOU OVER UNTIL YOU GET YOUR NEXT FIX.
If you’re a fondue fanatic, there are options to satisfy your hankering at home. The Melting Pot has its own line of seasoning and dressings, glazes, and chocolate wafers. So anyone who wants to dust off the fondue pot their aunt saved from her swinging '70s parties can try making fondue at home with a side of Teriyaki Glaze as a dipping sauce.
10. AN EPISODE OF TRAVEL CHANNEL’S FOOD PARADISE FEATURED A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LOCATION OF THE MELTING POT.
An episode of Travel Channel’s Food Paradise visited the Melting Pot’s Thousand Oaks, California location, where the most popular cheese blend is the Boston Lager Cheddar fondue (it must be due to the beer and bacon in it). The location says it has a separate Hollywood room for celebrities, where no cameras, photographs, or paparazzi are allowed. Which is nice, because who needs a camera in your face when you're scarfing down pots full of milk chocolate flambé?