In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn more about Melt Shop from its COO, Josh Morgan.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What is Melt Shop?
Josh Morgan (JM): Melt Shop was founded in 2011 in New York City by Spencer Rubin. It’s a melted sandwich fast-casual concept, offering a variety of melted sandwiches, tenders, tots, salads, shakes, and signature lemonades as well as beer and wine. We’re the pioneer of the Melted Sandwich Movement, a progression toward elevating the traditional melted sandwich, and the first (and only) concept out there to bring craveable melted sandwiches to the fast-casual space at scale.
Our focus is simple: melted sandwiches made with high-quality ingredients. Our bread is freshly baked daily and we only use high-quality cheese sourced from meticulously selected dairies. We aim to create a culinary experience unmatched in the fast-casual space by unlocking the feelings, memories and moments that bring people joy.
FC: Can you share more about your parent company, Aurify Brands?
JM: Aurify was originally Five Points Partners (FPP), founded by Andy Stern and John Rigos in the early 2000s. FPP was a franchisee of Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Eventually, Andy and John expanded FPP’s investment strategy to include the acquisition and development of concepts with high brand-equity potential.
In 2011, FPP was renamed Aurify Brands, LLC, and today the company is equal parts hospitality group and restaurant incubator, housing six brands including Melt Shop.
FC: How many Melt Shop restaurants are currently open? How many are in development?
JM: We have 10 restaurants throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, as well as two international locations in Kuwait in the Middle East. We have a new restaurant in development in Delaware – our first restaurant in the state – with our franchisee, Drew Smith. Drew signed an agreement in 2018 to bring 20+ locations to the northeast.
We’ll also be breaking into New Jersey for the first time with two new restaurants slated to open before the end of 2018.
FC: What are the brand’s expansion plans, both in the U.S. and around the world?
JM: We’ve had a successful first year of franchising, signing agreements to develop 26 new restaurants in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Kuwait. We’re also continuing to invest our own capital into developing corporate Melt Shop restaurants in our target markets like Florida and our home state of New York.
We envision Melt Shop in major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. and internationally. As we move into 2019, we’re continuing to seek well-capitalized franchisees who are entrepreneurial, have a strong knowledge of their markets, and are excited to be part of our early growth story.
FC: What makes Melt Shop an attractive franchise opportunity to invest in?
JM: Melt Shop occupies a defensible niche in the fast-casual segment that has virtually no competition, and our product possesses the unique ability to be instantly recognizable and familiar in any market.
In addition, we have the unique advantage of being part of Aurify Brands, which was founded by franchisees that understand the ins and outs of this business. This allows us to connect with and support our franchisees in a way that many other franchisors can’t because we’ve all been there before. We understand what it’s like being on the operational side of the equation and Melt Shop’s simplistic and easily-replicable model was built with the franchisee in mind.
FC: How does Melt Shop differ from its competition?
JM: Our category is one that has remained largely untapped. We’ve seen saturation of the Better Burger segment, but few companies have looked into melted sandwiches and how to make them better. A few have tried and failed while we continue to grow, which is a testament to the sustainability of our brand and our ongoing commitment to product innovation.
Spencer Rubin, Melt Shop’s founder and CEO, successfully created a brand that is both appealing and relatable to consumers and entrepreneurs. Bread and cheese together is so versatile, and Spencer used that as a base to create a fun and craveable menu. By taking a simple classic and adding the best artisanal ingredients around, he really elevated and revolutionized what we know as the grilled cheese sandwich.
FC: What does Melt Shop look for in the ideal franchisee? Are there any requirements?
JM: We’re seeking multi-unit franchisees with strong restaurant and hospitality experience and a shared dedication to operational excellence who are immersed in their market. This is important because we believe that a brand’s strength is dependent on its connection to guests.
The ideal franchisee is a proven multi-unit operator in the restaurant industry that is looking to grow with us. We are not offering sub-franchises at this time.
FC: What support does Melt Shop offer its franchisees?
JM: We pride ourselves on setting our franchisees up for success from the moment they become a partner. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to perfecting our product and processes so that we were able to develop a franchise model that was not only simplistic and easily replicable, but sustainable. Guesswork has no place in our franchise. We have set the expectations, developed the standards and created the operational systems to hold our employees, our franchisees and ourselves accountable.
People development is at the forefront of our brand mission. It’s our utmost priority to find the best people – franchisees and employees alike – and to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Of course it includes robust training, but when we partner with our franchisees, we’re making an investment in their future and empowering them to reach new heights. This is so important to us because business excellence is simply not possible without people excellence.
FC: Any exciting things coming up?
JM: We recently expanded our menu to include chicken tenders. Our guests are the center of everything we do and we learned through consumer insight that our customers were interested in tenders, so we made them a core menu item. They’re made fresh in-house using our proprietary homemade recipe, served as a meal or side in three craveable flavors, including The Original, Buffalo Parmesan and Mike’s Hot Honey.
Coming up, we’re relaunching our mobile app, which will include new features like delivery and pickup and a robust loyalty program. Additionally, given the growing trend of food delivery and off-premises, we’re making innovations in both our catering business and third-party delivery services. This includes a new fully-insulated delivery package that will keep product fresher, longer.
FC: How can our readers learn more about franchising opportunities with Melt Shop?
You can visit http://meltshopfranchise.com/ to learn more about our brand and the franchise opportunity.