The news has been full of stories lately about artificial intelligence and the fascinating, sometimes scary things it could lead to in the future.
But AI, it seems, also could help Wichita land some coveted restaurant chains.
On Monday, fondue chain The Melting Pot announced that it had targeted Wichita as one of the markets where it wants to open a restaurant, preferably no later than 2025. In fact, the chain wants to open 15 restaurants nationwide by 2025 and is hoping to find franchisees to open two in Kansas, with one being in Wichita.
So how did the restaurant chain, which specializes in special occasion Swiss-style fondue meals, pinpoint Wichita? Collin Benyo, the franchise’s Tampa-based franchise growth strategist, said that the chain uses an AI program called SiteZeus, which helps it determine which markets would best support its concept.
The program utilizes algorithms that look at things like population density, traffic patterns, market segmentation and interest level, and it can even map what 12 months of sales would likely look like in any given market.
The program ranked Wichita high, Benyo said. In fact, Wichita is the chain’s No. 1 target in Kansas, and the program even helped it determine that two specific areas in Wichita — Old Town and “southwest Wichita” — were where a Melting Pot would likely perform best.
“Based on what we’ve seen, Wichita ranked very high on the scale of locations and cities we need to focus on,” Benyo said.
The Melting Pot, a Florida-based chain that has 94 restaurants across the country, has been in business since 1975. It offers a dining “experience” where customers share cheese fondue — a pot of melted cheese served with items like bread and veggies for dipping — or chocolate dessert fondue. Diners also can cook meats and seafood items at their tables in fondue pots.
Actually getting a Melting Pot in Wichita, though, will require that the right franchisee expresses interest. If he could find the right person, Benyo said, he’d love to get a restaurant in Wichita open sooner than 2025.
The Melting Pot is the second chain to express interest in the Wichita market in the past several weeks. In late August, Shipley Do-Nuts out of Houston also announced that it hoped to find a franchisee in Wichita.
Anyone interested in discussing franchising The Melting Pot in Wichita should either visit the “own a restaurant “ tab on the chain’s website or call Benyo at 813-425-6209.