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Melting Pot – more than dining out, it’s an experience

The Appleton restaurant celebrates 20 years of fondue with a new, functional look

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December 13, 2023

APPLETON – The Melting Pot is celebrating 20 years of providing dining experiences at its Appleton location (2295 W. College Ave.) with a major renovation.

The establishment has been the area’s go-to spot for the art of fondue since 2003 when the Supple family purchased the franchise.

Though Melting Pot got its start in 1975 just outside of Orlando, the one in Appleton – which was previously a Shakey’s Pizza – was the first franchise location in the State of Wisconsin.

Husband and wife team, Jay Sr. and Heidi Supple – who own and operate the Appleton location along with partners John and Doreen Supple, said “we all wear a lot of hats as a second generation independently-owned restaurant.”

“Jay specifically oversees all of the marketing and works with our general managers and chefs,” Heidi said. “He is the vision and the driver of the company.”

Enhancing the experience
Dining fondue style, Heidi said, is all about the experience.

The restaurant’s recent 8,000-square-foot remodel, she said, has only further enhanced that experience.

One of the major features of the redesign is a new 20-foot firewall, which Jay said is “our wow factor and is unique to the Appleton location.”

Expanding the bar, Heidi said, was another pivotal part of the renovation.

“(The goal was) to help create an inviting space for guests to socialize for casual dips and sips,” she said. “It now features intimate booths and cooktops in the bar and, with the removal of the Wine Room, TVs were added to help create a central bar area where bartenders craft high-level cocktails. It is a great place to enjoy Happy Hour, which includes half-price cheese and chocolate fondue in the bar lounge.” 

The renovation also saw the addition of local artwork featuring scenes from Appleton and the Fox Valley – something Jay said was an integral part of the remodeling initiative.

“We could have purchased artwork that the franchise has available to us, but it was important we show an appreciation to our roots and what makes our location in Appleton so special,” he said.

Jay said they hired a local photographer from the area to produce mural-sized photographs of Lawrence University and the Appleton Airport runway, as well as scenes by the Fox River.

Upgrades, Jay said, also include all-new finishes throughout the restaurant.

“Which includes fabrics, tile flooring, paint, lighting, a candle wall in ‘Lovers Lane’ and candle focal features in the upper section,” he said. “Seating in one of the rooms is also movable to cater to different group sizes.”

The transformation, Heidi said, is part of Melting Pot Evolution, a company-wide initiative aimed at upgrading dining rooms, bars and other parts of the establishments.

She said the team at the Appleton location evaluated the Melting Pot brand standards, watched the remodeling packages and waited until “we had the one we wanted.”

A planning process that even included tours of other Melting Pot restaurants on the East Coast, which Heidi said helped spark a multitude of ideas.

“If we were going to do (the renovation), we were going to do this all out and prepare for the next 20 years,” she said.

Jay, who was the driving force behind the renovation, said one of the keys to their success is making sure customers never see the property as dated.

“We are constantly remodeling and updating,” he said.

Some of the changes, Heidi said, are more subtle.

One of the new features added with the renovation is the 20-foot firewall that greets patrons as they enter the restaurant. Submitted Photo

“When we had four guests (at a table) there was just one burner,” she said. “Now, each table has two burners so we can accommodate the appropriate time for the customer’s visit. It also allows us to add the grill, and it provides more opportunity for an enhanced experience.”

Heidi said the goal of the renovations was to create a “unique, celebratory experience that people say, ‘I can’t believe this is in Appleton, Wisconsin.’” 

Changes also found their way to the menu, Heidi said, with the addition of an Ultimate 5-Course Experience.

“This addition elevates the fondue experience to a next-level celebration with chef-crafted cheese fondue, choice of salad, premium entrées, including prime cuts of filet and jumbo shrimp, along with the grand finale – a Chocolate Explosion Fondue that arrives with fire and sparkles,” she said.

An interactive dining experience
Known for offering a variety of fondue cooking styles and unique entrées, Melting Pot’s menu also features cheese fondues, salads, fine wines, and chocolate fondue desserts.

Heidi said the fondue experience is about “sharing a pot – it’s communal and interactive.”

“We hear feedback from customers all the time who appreciate their lengthy conversations over a relaxing dinner,” she said. “The world slows down a little bit here. You’re cooking together, talking and dipping (items into) different sauces – which all adds to the dining experience.”

Heidi said the Appleton team works hard to appeal to restaurant-goers’ timelines, too.

“We try to gauge our guests’ timeframe because we have regulars who just choose the cheese or chocolate fondue,” she said. “Sometimes customers have a shorter turn time because they have plans after dinner. We also have guests who want to enjoy our four- or five-course meals.”

It’s no secret that restaurants have experienced staffing struggles, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Heidi said “this challenge is our greatest asset” – which she said all comes down to the culture they have created.

“We preach on (culture) from the top to the bottom,” she said. “Brothers John, Jay and Joe Supple grew up in the restaurant business, and they talk about building the right culture to run a successful business.” 

Heidi said they aren’t big on titles at the Melting Pot.

“We give titles because people want them, but it’s all about responsibility,” she said. “The dishwasher’s job is just as important, if not more important than the general manager’s job because if the dishes aren’t clean, nothing else goes right. It’s all about responsibility. Everyone’s job is equally important. We preach that from day one. That is the secret to our success.”

Jay said when businesses keep their staff engaged and happy, they will stay.

“We have professional servers who have been with us five,10, 15 years or more, and that is a lot of our success,” he said. “When our regular customers come in, they recognize the faces of our team.”

Jay said their professional servers love taking care of the guests and sharing in their special occasions, like anniversaries and birthdays.

“We have a guest who celebrated their 150th reservation last weekend,” he said.

For more information on the Melting Pot, visit, or find the Appleton location’s page on Facebook. 

A long-standing family affair
The Supple family has worked together in the restaurant industry for decades.

Jay and Heidi said they see teaming up with family as a benefit.

“Because we have multiple restaurants (also owning and operating both Fox River Brewing Co. Waterfront Restaurant & Brewing locations, as well as Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant), we are not on top of each other in a typical work day,” Heidi said. “(In any business), you can’t have two people who think alike. That would not work. Does that mean we don’t have debates? We have debates – we all have to give and take. We all come with creative minds.” 

The family commitment, Heidi said, dates back to their roots at Shakey’s Pizza.

“No one has your back like family,” she said. “Jay and John grew up in this. They were taught (about the industry) during the Shakey’s Pizza days by their parents. They developed that work ethic and the standard (for doing things).”

Joe, the oldest Supple brother, is one of the business partners and is retired.

John III is president and works closely with restaurant operations, while Jay, chief executive officer, works with restaurant management, the culinary team, brewery wholesale operations and oversees marketing.

Heidi and Doreen handle the corporate office responsibilities and financial reporting.

As an attorney, Heidi said she manages all legal and employment issues, while Doreen takes care of payroll and accounts payable.

Jay Jr. – Heidi’s and Jay’s son – is the brewery sales representative.

He works with Jay, their head brewer and all of the distributors to promote and sell all of our Fox River Brewing Co. beers wholesale throughout the State of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

The family said they learned everything they know about the restaurant business from their parents – John Jr. (who passed away last year at the age of 90) and Dolores who is currently 89.

Even after no longer being involved in day-to-day operations, Heidi said they both wanted to hear about the restaurant every day, including the daily sales and different promotions going on.

“Dolores can’t wait to read the daily emails and see what the sales were the day before,” she said. “They lived it and breathed it for so long – it is integral to all of our lives.”

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