Three years ago, the powerhouse tech investors at Sequoia Capital announced they were putting $10 million into The Melt, a small chain of grilled cheese sandwich restaurants. Today, The Melt is not only still around, but somehow dumber than ever.
Recode's Nellie Bowles chatted with Melt CEO Jonathan Kaplan, who is either in the midst of a very long midlife crisis, or pulling a wonderful sort of long-ball art performance on the tech business press:
Kaplan, the former hardware executive with deep ties to Silicon Valley, called together his engineers and then built a new delivery contraption called the Smart Box. A delivery box equipped with an aluminum block, motors and fans to monitor both heat and humidity, the Smart Box is "like a sous-vide immersion circulator that uses air instead of water," Kaplan said. It is meant to keep the toasted bread from becoming too soft.
Each "Smart Box," seen above, costs $200. A plain grilled cheese sandwich from The Melt costs $5, which makes it a natural fit for the rich babies of San Francisco, who can't even dress themselves, let alone put a piece of cheese between two pieces of bread over heat without causing a gas explosion. While they're at work devising new ways to add filters to photos, The Melt has been working, as well:
"It took us a little over a year [and] five or six engineers, software and hardware guys from Apple, Google, Cisco."
What could these engineers have been doing if they were working on a box for preventing delivery grilled cheese sogginess? What genuinely cool, impressive, amazing—maybe even useful—things could we have instead of this orange box, this big orange plastic crate-fuck?
We'll never know what we could have had instead of this orange cheese box, and that makes me very sad. Sadder yet is that their talents will remain poorly allocated. Here's the upcoming wave of venture-backed sandwich progress:
The next generation of its Melt app, for example, will sense when a consumer is within a block of the restaurant and prepare your grilled cheese based on distance and speed...When you arrive at the store, the music in the sandwich shop might immediately change to something you recently liked on Facebook, into which your Melt app has hooked.
Future generations will curse us.