Melting Pot Restaurants Teams With Chef Chris Ponte For Two New Franchise Ideas

Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. will launch not one, but two new restaurant concepts next year.

Both are partnerships between Mark and Bob Johnston, the Tampa brothers who control the 142-store fondue restaurant chain, and Clearwater chef Chris Ponte of the popular Cafe Ponte.

It’s an expanded role for Ponte, who has been a consultant developing the fare for GrillSmith, the Johnstons’ sit-down casual dining chain that opens its sixth Tampa Bay location in Westfield Brandon Town Center on Tuesday.

Both new concepts — which are being groomed as Melting Pot’s third and fourth brands for future franchising — will be a fast-casual setup similar to Panera Bread that caters to more sophisticated tastes at a value price. Both are designed to get a third of their business from takeout. The average ticket would be $5 to $15, about $10 less than GrillSmith, which has a full bar and table service.

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