Summer pairing promo
Though the majority of The Melting Pot’s customers are women, Brown doesn’t want to neglect the male guests. So he strives to create some LTO programs with wide appeal. “We’re cognizant that different people have different taste profiles,” he says. “One thing doesn’t work for all.”
The chain’s Dip into Summer program this past summer offered seasonal dishes such as BBQ Brisket Cheddar fondue ($8.95), along with light white wines for the hot weather, and a shandy flight ($7.95). The flight combined Sam Adams Summer Ale with a trio of different house lemonades: Black Cherry Blush, Ruby Red Crush and Lively Lemon, each in 7-oz. servings. The shandies were also available individually as 12-oz. pours.
The Dip into Summer cocktail menu featured the Summertime Sipper (pictured as feature image), made with watermelon, cucumber, Malibu rum and fresh lime juice ($7.95). “All of those beverages had specific food pairings to go with them,” Brown explains.
For instance, the Black Cherry Blush shandy was suggested with a milk chocolate fondue. The Ruby Red Crush went with a seafood boil LTO ($24.95) of Pacific white shrimp, scallops, lobster and shrimp ravioli, andouille sausage and crab claws simmered in an Old Bay seasoned broth and served with red potatoes and corn on the cob.
These pairings were promoted primarily through The Melting Pot’s servers, he adds, “so much so that on top of their normal training, they received five extra weeks of training for this program.”
To help motivate servers into pushing the pairings, The Melting Pot held an internal contest. Servers who successfully sold customers on pairings were entered into a drawing for a Visa gift card.
The Dip into Summer LTO was scheduled to run from May 12 through July 31, but the program was so successful at some locations that they extended it into August. Dip into Summer helped contribute to The Melting Pot’s increase in sales and guests, Brown says, and will be “the yardstick for measuring success” of future LTOs.
To capitalize on the craft beer boom, The Melting Pot’s Craft Your Own Fondue program allowed guests to choose a craft beer to be mixed into their fondues. The chain rolled out the LTO at test locations during fall 2015. After positive feedback and strong sales, the restaurant will bring it back this May.
The chain also tied in a “local” emphasis, which is key with craft, by allowing its franchises to offer beers from area breweries. This also meant a great variety of beer styles could go into the fondues―amber ales, IPAs, pale ales, stouts and so on.
“As an avid IPA drinker, I can say that you really could taste the hops” when the beer style is used in a fondue, Brown says.
The program also enables The Melting Pot to provide a value-add to customers. Because its fondue recipes didn’t call for a full beer, servers would offer leftover beer to guests, making for a natural pairing with the fondue.
Wine and Beer Fondue Pairings
The Melting Pot selects wines and beers that are ideal matches for its fondue dishes all year round. Brown has a few guidelines for perfect pairings.
Crisper, more acidic wines generally pair nicely with cheese fondues, Brown says. The acid provides balance for the richness of cheese. Styles that work particularly well include sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, unoaked chardonnay and some pinot noirs.
As for chocolate fondues, look for wine partners that display notes of deep red fruits. The wine should have sufficient structure and light-to-medium tannins to match the milk and dark chocolate fondues, Brown says, such as merlots and red blends.
Beer in general makes for excellent pairings with cheese fondue, he adds. Brown currently prefers well-balanced pale ales with a pronounced malt character and low hoppiness. These food-friendly brews can provide great balance to the flavors and richness of cheese in a fondue, he notes.
Does Brown ever worry about coming up with fresh concepts for drink promotions and LTOs?
“I used to worry about where I would get that next idea,” he admits. “Not anymore.”
Because Brown taps into trends in pop culture and the food/beverage industry, he is not long without inspiration. And the success of Women and Whiskey showed him possibilities of combining beverage and food in The Melting Pot’s LTOs. “I’ll be talking with our chefs about that next idea,” he notes.
As part of its Dip into Summer program this past summer, The Melting Pot offered a shandy flight including Sam Adams Summer Ale with a trio of different house lemonades.
The Melting Pot’s national beverage director Paul Brown looks to consumer demographic, food and beverage and pop culture trends to keeps the chain’s drink program current and vibrant.
The fondue restaurant’s Dip into Summer program included a seafood boil entree of shrimp, scallops, lobster and shrimp ravioli, andouille sausage and crab claws; servers recommended pairing the dish with the Ruby Red Crush shandy.
Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Cheers Magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @kswartzz