Well, this is … unexpected. Jonathan Kaplan, who previously led the company that created the Flip camera, just announced his new project on-stage at the D9 conference — and it’s a grilled cheese company.
Specifically, Kaplan said his new company The Melt will be a “next generation fast, casual restaurant.” Users will be able to order grilled cheese sandwiches and soups via the Melt mobile website. Then they receive a QR code, redeem the code in any Melt restaurant, and receive their freshly made order in minutes.
This may seem like more of a lark than a serious business, but it sounds like Kaplan is really trying to invent a new model for the restaurant business, one that uses mobile technology for an experience that’s fast and flexible without sacrificing quality. There are ambitious expansion plans, too. The Melt will open five restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area between August and November, and Kaplan wants to open 500 locations in the next five years. The company has even raised venture funding from famed firm Sequoia Capital — Kaplan wouldn’t specify how much, but he said it was enough to open 20 stores, which cost between $500,000 and $1 million. So if you do the math, that’s at least $10 million.
And why grilled cheese? Kaplan said it’s because “grilled cheese makes you happy.” If nothing else, this seems like a good fit for the San Francisco startup crowd — I still remember the excitement when the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen opened in San Francisco’s startup-heavy South of Market neighborhood.
Speaking of the Flip, Kaplan also talked about Cisco’s decision to shut down the product. Kaplan left the company before the announcement, but he said that he wasn’t surprised — after watching Cisco’s stock price and participating in conversations with analysts, Kaplan said, “It was very clear that there would be a lot of pressure to focus on the core business.” As for why Cisco didn’t just sell the division, Kaplan speculated (and he emphasized that it was just speculation) that Flip technology has been incorporated into other Cisco products, so it would be too complicated to “unwind” anything Flip-related from Cisco.