Earlier this month at the “D” conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Flip video camera inventor Jonathan Kaplan surprised everyone by taking the stage to announce his latest start-up: a grilled cheese sandwich. Even harder to believe was that Kaplan had already attracted leading venture firm Sequoia Capital, which in the past has backed Google, Apple, and Oracle, and had raised upwards of $10 million in funding.
“Today you’d probably say, ‘Why would a venture firm invest in a restaurant business? That doesn’t make any sense,’” Kaplan said. “But just go to Chipotle and look at its market cap.” (FYI, Chipotle’s cap is $8.6 billion.)
Starting in August, Kaplan’s start-up called “The Melt” will open five stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto, with plans to open 50 more stores nationwide next year and 500 more in five years.
Kaplan’s plan involves much more than just grilled bread and cheese, however; the Melt is a tech company as much as it is a restaurant. According to The New York Times, customers will order soup and sandwiches over their mobile phones before they even enter the restaurant. The customer scans a QR code with their phone, and the Melt’s chefs get cooking so customers never have to wait in a line.
Kaplan says that it will allow customers to round up their purchases to the next dollar and donate the extra proceeds to hunger-fighting charities.
“There are high-end grilled cheese restaurants just like there were high-end camcorders, and of course there are cheap ones, but there was no product that could capture the hearts and minds the way Flip did, and the Melt is going to be the same,” Kaplan said.
Read more from The New York Times.