Say cheese: The Melting Pot may open in Iowa

Pretzel bread and cheddar are a popular combo at the Melting Pot’s 93 locations across North America. Photo: Melting Pot

Writer: Michael Morain

OK, show of hands: Who likes melted cheese?

Apparently, a lot of us do. A representative from the Melting Pot, a chain of fondue restaurants, was in town this week to scout out potential spots to open a new franchise in Central Iowa. Both Ankeny and West Des Moines are on the company’s short list, based on demographic factors like wealth, education and, no doubt, lactose tolerance.

The first Melting Pot opened near Orlando in 1975, a decade or so after the Swiss national dish caught on in American kitchens and shag-carpeted dining rooms. Melting Pot franchises bubbled up across Florida and then nationwide. The Tampa-based empire now comprises 93 restaurants in 31 U.S. states and Canada, with plans to open 15 more in time for its 50th anniversary.

The company’s original three menu options — hot oil, Swiss cheese, chocolate — have expanded over the years to include more traditional entrees and salads. The latest addition is something the website touts as an “ultimate 5-course experience,” which ends with a “Chocolate Explosion Fondue [that] arrives in a spectacle of fire and sparkles.”

The Melting Pot has explored Central Iowa at least once before, in 2014, according to a note in the Des Moines Register. A different fondue restaurant, Crave, opened in 2006 in West Glen but closed after a relatively short run.

But fondue’s dip may be done. The Melting Pot reports that 74 of its restaurants broke sales records in 2022 and 2023, when diners returned to restaurants after the pandemic.

The new spot in Central Iowa could open in mid-2025, according to Collin Benyo, the company’s franchise growth strategist. He lives in Sarasota, Florida, and flew in to meet with local business leaders and explore properties around the metro. In January. After a blizzard.

It’s a no-brainer, he said. “If I can sell melted cheese in Tampa, I can sell it in Des Moines.”

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