Say "cheese!" Jonathan Kaplan, the inventor of the once-trendy Flip handheld video camera — a business purchased by Cisco in 2009 for nearly $600 million, before being shuttered this year — has a new and rather unlikely undertaking: grilled cheese restaurants. Here, a brief guide to "The Melt" — Kaplan's cheesy new enterprise:
How many grilled cheese joints are we talking about?
A lot of them. Kaplan is planning to open four The Melt locations in the San Francisco Bay Area "soon." He says he already has enough cash to open 20 stores, and has an ambitious goal of 500 shops nationwide by 2015.
How is he going to pull that off?
Kaplan has some big backers. He says he has secured $10 million in funding for the "Chipotle-style chain," including $500,000 to $1 million from Sequoia Capital — a prominent backer in the past of tech smashes such as Apple, Google, YouTube, and PayPal.
Why are a bunch of techies backing a sandwich shop?
It's a high-tech sandwich shop, says Kaplan. "You'll order online or from your phone," says David Pogue at The New York Times. "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." Well then, says Ryan Tate at Gawker. "This grilled cheese isn't just a sandwich; it's a technology platform."
Isn't $8 a little pricey for bread, cheese, and soup?
This isn't your typical grilled cheese sandwich, proponents say. Celebrity chef Michael Mina is onboard, and Kaplan is working on flavors like "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." Try whipping that up at home.
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