From The Flip to The Melt, Appiness is a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Jonathan Kaplan, who gave us the Flip — the web-ready video camera sold to Cisco for nearly $600 million in 2009 before its demise this year — has flipped to a new business, a “Chipotle-style chain” of grilled cheese restaurants called The Melt.

You might say that Kaplan, the former CEO of Pure Digital Technologies, has an app-etite for innovative ideas.

Four outlets for his new gourmet sandwich concept (which comes with its own app) will be open in the San Francisco Bay Area by Labor Day, with a goal of 500 nationwide by 2015.

Backers have so far put $10 million in his coffers, including a $500,000 to $1 million stake by Sequoia Capital, whose previous investments were Apple, Google, YouTube, and PayPal.[more]

The concept that caught Sequoia’s fancy is Kaplan’s combo of a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich at affordable prices, with a high-tech twist. “You’ll order online or from your phone; you’ll be sent a QR barcode, which you hold up to a scanner when you arrive at the restaurant. Your sandwich and soup combo ($8) will be ready in one minute,” according to the New York Times.

Celebrity chef Michael Mina is working with Kaplan on a menu that skews upscale and gustatory. This isn’t your neighborhood diner’s grilled cheese, but “aged Gruyère on wheat with wild mushroom soup,” “goat cheese and mint with carrot ginger soup,” and “sharp cheddar on potato bread and tomato basil soup.”

There’s also a side serving of service to the community: after every visit, you’ll be asked to round up your bill to the nearest dollar, with the surplus being donated to a charity fighting hunger.

Kaplan told the NYT that his new venture echoes “all the same tenets as the Flip: Simple, nostalgic, memorable, affordable.” Gawker’s Ryan Tate begs to differ, commenting that “This grilled cheese isn’t just a sandwich; it’s a technology platform.”

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