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The Melt's 100 Bus Fleet Means War On Food Trucks

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[Photo: The Melt]

Have you heard? Built-for-speed grilled cheese trailblazer, The Melt will be opening its next location on a bus. With five Bay Area locations and two on the way soon, The Melt will flaunt its first bus on a barge in McCovey Cove during the Giants game this Sunday. Next Thursday, the refurbished school bus will make its first real stop for San Francisco plebeians in an undisclosed location.

The quickly expanding grilled cheese chain, which Michael Mina is consulting on, plans to have nine buses in service by the end of the year, and a fully fleshed out fleet of 100 spread amongst various, under-wraps U.S. cities over the next five years. Eater just caught The Melt CMO Paul Coletta on the phone, after he disembarked from a plane yesterday, to find out why they've made the big switch in the business plan, and if this really means war on food trucks. For the record, Coletta was in Portland, OR, which may or may not be under consideration for expansion.

A fleet of 100 buses is an interesting play. Will these displace some of the planned brick-and-mortar locations? Yes they will. The 500 planned retail locations are inclusive of bus stops for our fleet of 100 buses. I think it's fun that you can get 100% of our menu, the very same product and quality you find at The Melt permanent locations in a 200 square foot bus. We have the exact same technology on the bus, so while most food trucks are offering less than a restaurant would, we are the complete opposite. This is not Melt Lite. It's our vision of wheels and walls. We want to be a leader in that space.

How else are you changing the process of eating from a truck? One thing is all of our trucks are equipped with WiFi, providing mobile hot spots. We'll have collapsible patios in front of most locations, depending on their capacity for outdoor seating.

Where are you getting these buses? They are reclaimed school buses from various locations in Northern California. We're converting them into Melt buses that run on biodiesel fuel.

So you can scan your QR code on the bus too? Yes there's a spot below the order window for you to scan your code, if you order ahead of time online. Another cool thing is, you can scan the code at any The Melt bus or permanent location. We don't fire the order or charge you until you arrive, and then your grilled cheese is made in 60 seconds.

It's so hard to change people's habits. What percentage of people are actually using the pre-order, QR code technology? We are up to 10%, depending on the location. And that's without a lot of marketing. We think if we marketed it more, we could get it up to 25% pretty easily.

What's your current favorite order? I get the egg-in-a-hole a lot. A Peet's coffee and one of those for me in the morning. All of the buses will have Peet's available as well. So you can get breakfast for under $6 in less than three minutes.

What kind of eggs are you using? Are you listing your purveyors? That's not something we're doing, but we are committed to a menu that's 100% natural. Sodas are made with all natural cane sugar, all Melt packaging is 100% compostable and all third party packaging is recyclable.

Why the shift to buses instead of brick-and-mortar? What's the attraction with the bus? We are in the business of selling grilled cheese, and these school buses are a nostalgic wink to the childhood memories associated with grilled cheese.

What about financial reasons? It really was all about the nostalgia. By rolling out the buses, we can bring happiness anywhere and it helps extend our customer reach.

Will Melt buses be showing up at Off the Grid or Soma StrEat Food Park? That's not our intent. We want to create a non-traditional pattern, which is to secure fixed bus stops that have specific, reliable times. For example, we want folks to know that The Melt bus # 1 is always at X stop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We are reinventing mobile eating.

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The Melt

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