It may not be a cute little parachute, but San Francisco-based grilled cheese shop chain The Melt has just invented the greatest sandwich delivery system the world has ever seen. They had a little help — from NASA, of course (because who doesn’t go to the folks who put humans on the moon for their grilled cheese advice?) — but seriously, you guys. The Melt’s Smart Box is proof that the future is now.
The Melt, which was first launched in the fall of 2013 by former Flip mastermind Jonathan Kaplan, works off of a very basic premise: Grilled cheese is amazing … but only when it’s fresh. Once your sandwich has been sitting for more than a few minutes, it transforms from warm, gooey, cheesy dream into a cold and nightmarish lump. So: How do you ensure that you get your sandwich fresh, but also quickly? You build a pre-order system in the form of an app that is unrivaled throughout the casual dining industry. But although The Melt’s app makes sure that you get your sandwich fresh a minute (literally) after walking in the door, how do you translate that concept to delivery?
Answer: With the Smart Box. According to Fast Company, The Melt got to work building their own food delivery solution when they realized that something that could keep a grilled cheese sandwich gooey and melty on the inside and crisp on the outside for up to an hour didn’t yet exist. The initial model, said VP of Operations Greg Hernandez, was “basically… a cardboard box with holes in it, and in one of those holes they shoved a hair dryer.” It may not have looked terribly impressive, but the science was sound; continued Hernandez, “What we realized is that if you maintained the temperature, and you had even airflow, and a way to get some of the moisture out of the product as it sat in the box, that it can hold a Melt for over 20 minutes and still meet temperature, moisture, and crispness guidelines.” Also, I love that The Melt has temperature, moisture, and crispness guidelines in the first place. That’s awesome.
Anyhoo, the company got in touch with some consultants who had previously worked with NASA to build the box properly. It took them a couple of tries, but by the time they got the fourth one, they had created a masterpiece. The Smart Box uses an aluminum block, motors, and fans to work its magic; Kaplan told Re/Code that it’s “like a sous-vide immersion circulator that uses air instead of water.” That phrase makes very little sense to me, but I understand the result: a grilled cheese sandwich with perfectly melty insides and perfectly crisp outsides that stays just as perfect as it was when it came off the grill for an incredibly impressive amount of time.
Although the Smart Boxes aren’t cheap — about $200, according to Re/Code — I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seeing loads of potential for them, should Kaplan decide to sell them to the general public. Here’s a list of other delivery food items I think would benefit enormously from The Melt’s Smart Box:
Or quesadillas, or burritos, or pretty much any other piece of Mexican cuisine. Chipotle was the last innovation in the fast food burrito world, so maybe it’s time to shake things up a little bit.
2. Eggplant Parmesan
I make a mean eggplant parm, but it’s incredibly labor intensive and I don’t always want to go through all the trouble of making it. Good delivery eggplant parm that isn’t soggy or cold, though, is hard to come by. Let’s change that, shall we?
Anything’s got to be better than those not-so-thermally-insulated things most pizza delivery places use right now.
4. Ice Cream
If Smart Boxes can keep hot things hot, what’s not to say that a variation on the theme could keep cold things cold? Because seriously. Delivery ice cream is the best idea ever.
5. Fresh Baked Anything
Bread, cupcakes, pies, bagels, cookies — the possibilities are endless. Baked goods are always best when they’re fresh out of the oven.
6. Fried Things
Whether you prefer your fried food savory (chicken, potatoes, etc.) or sweet (Oreos, Mars bars, and so on), there’s no denying that like grilled cheese, they, too, suffer when they’ve been sitting out for too long.
7. Mac and Cheese
The noodle and cheese consistency are both of the utmost importance.
Anyone else have anything to add? Maybe they’ll start taking requests!