Soon after, the chain experienced the biggest turnaround Bower says he’s witnessed in his 30-year career. The Melt saw 88 consecutive weeks of positive same-store sales, with 40 of those weeks being greater than 20 percent. Comp sales were up almost 17 percent in 2019, with a two-year stack of 30.4 percent. The average weekly unit sales were $30,000, more than double from two years ago. The chain now operates seven stores, less than half of what it had prior to the turnaround.
“We have the best grilled cheese and the best burgers certainly anywhere in California and I think anywhere in the country, and that’s what we set out to do,” Bower says. “If you’re going to be a great restaurant company, you need to have great food, and I think that’s what we have today.”
Bower says the menu changes weren’t the result of a culinary epiphany. It came from customers who said the food was good, but not unique. In response, the CEO and his team set a goal to create the best burger in California. Bower was inspired by a visit to Brooklyn where he tasted a chopped cheese sandwich. He wondered what would happen if The Melt could make a burger using the same concept.
That led to the Meltburger—6 ounces of chopped Angus and Wagyu beef filled with pickled jalapeño mix and twice the amount of cheese, which melts into the patty. Previous burgers were only 4 ounces; the brand now uses sturdier buns to stand up to the added weight. There’s also a 9-ounce Mega Melt burger for those with a larger appetite.
“We like to think we have the meltiest burger in the world,” Bower says. “Our team and I say this all the time—we don’t sell cheeseburgers, we sell Meltburgers, and that’s important. I think that Angus and Wagyu blend is important, but what makes us different from any other place is that chop and pickled jalapeno mix getting into every nook and cranny of the burger. That’s been very well-received. We went from having a burger that was sort of non-descriptive, not a lot different, to something that many of our guests feel is the best burger they ever had. Every day I get feedback that they’ve never had a better burger.”