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.
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.
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 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.