Smart Box

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's a problem that's plagued the restaurant industry for decades: There hasn't been a satisfactory system for delivering things like grilled cheese sandwiches that keeps the food hot and crunchy for more than a few minutes.

Until now. Today, San Francisco-based The Melt, founded by Flip Camera creator Jonathan Kaplan, unveiled its Smart Box, a device designed to make it possible to keep 18 of the company's signature grilled cheese sandwiches hot and crunchy for 30 minutes or more.

For the first time, that makes delivering the tasty lunch food possible in downtown areas. For now, only San Francisco will benefit, but the company hopes to roll out the delivery service to its other stores around California soon.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

Box

The key to keeping the sandwiches hot and crunchy is air flow. That's helped by putting the sandwiches themselves inside this compostable container, which keeps the food elevated, and which has holes that allow air flow.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

The boxes

A look at the compostable container, complete with ridges on which the food rests, as well as holes for air flow.

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Smart box with sandwiches

Inside the Smart Box is an aluminum mass that's heated to 210 degrees before it's unplugged. There's also a fan and sensors designed to make sure the temperature doesn't fall too low, or that humidity doesn't cause too much moisture.

The sandwiches rest on racks inside the box.

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Hair dryer

The very first iteration of the Smart Box was nothing more than a cardboard box with a hair dryer. Though no one would ever buy a sandwich that came out of such a container, the prototype proved it was possible to keep a grilled cheese sandwich fresh for more than 20 minutes.

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Photo by: The Melt / Caption by:

Sample 2

A look down into the original Smart Box prototype, where the sandwiches were meant to be elevated on bamboo skewers.

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Photo by: The Melt / Caption by:

Third prototype

Another early prototype for the Smart Box.

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Photo by: The Melt / Caption by:

Pushing the Smart Box

Workers from The Melt deliver grilled cheese sandwiches to CNET's San Francisco headquarters.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

Holes

Holes in the compostable container allow air flow to the sandwiches.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

Down in it

A look down into the top of the Smart Box, where there's room for things like cookies, drinks, and other non-grilled-cheese items.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

Four lined up

To date, The Melt has produced 10 of the Smart Boxes, four of which are seen here at the company's San Francisco headquarters. It hopes to produce between 10 and 20 more.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:

Compostable container

A look at the compostable container, which keeps the sandwiches from laying flat -- which can make them soggy quickly -- and which has holes for air flow.

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Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
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