Social Commerce

The Melt: Grilled Cheese, Mobile Payments and the SoLoMo Consumer

The MeltCombine grilled cheese with QR Codes and what do you get? A fast-food chain with plans for national expansion that features the gooey cheese meets bread sandwich as its headliner, and mobile payments as its preferred method of purchase.

That’s quite a mouthful to put in one sentence, but it’s the spark behind The Melt, a small, but rising San Francisco, California fast-food chain founded by Jonathan Kaplan. You may recognize him as the founder of Pure Digital Technologies, maker of the Flip HD video camera, which he sold in 2009 for $530 million.

This begs the question, what’s a guy who created a hugely popular video technology doing making grill cheese sandwiches? For Kaplan, The Melt is more about a concept – combining mobile payments with fast-food service – than about the food itself.

“It’s not just about grilled-cheese sandwiches, but a technology platform that can be used for selling anything,” says Patrick Moorhead, principal at Moor Insights & Strategy (as reported in USA Today). “In a sense, it is a Trojan horse that could change the way all food services and pick-up (services) are done.”

According to USA Today, customers who prepay online or via their smartphone receive a QR code. “When they walk into any of The Melt’s locations, they can skip the line and scan their order at a kiosk near the cash register,” said the article.

That’s not to downplay the quality of the food. Aside from Kaplan’s passion to make mobile payments an industry standard, he is equally passionate about the perfect grilled cheese, which, in his case is a combination of sharp cheddar, brie or Gruyère on fresh-baked sourdough, garlic or artisan wheat bread.

While Kaplan’s concept for the use of mobile payments certainly appeals to the Bay area’s early adopter tech crowd, considering his plans for nationwide expansion, will it play in Peoria? I think so, particularly among the burgeoning SoLoMo customer group – those technology astute, smartphone obsessed consumers who value the convenience provided by mobile payment options as much as the taste of good food.

Personally, I love the juxtaposition of what may appear to be two completely divergent ethics: the old-fashioned nostalgia epitomized by the most quintessential of all comfort foods, mixed with state of the art mobile technology. It’s that seemingly strange combination that Kaplan is counting on to be the key to The Melt’s growth well beyond Silicon Valley.

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