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NATIONAL FONDUE, BURGER CHAINS PLAN TO OPEN RESTAURANTS IN AREA

Two new national restaurant chains are looking to open their first locations in the Buffalo area.

The Melting Pot is a high-priced fondue place with an extensive wine and drink list. Cheeburger Cheeburger is an affordable 1950s-style dinner known for posting pictures on its walls of customers who finish its "Pounder burger."

The Melting Pot, based in Tampa, Fla., has 90 restaurants across the country is looking for both a location and franchisee in the Buffalo area.

There's no oven or executive chef at the Melting Pot. Guests cook their own meats in flavored oils in the fondue pots. Fondue for two costs $53 and includes cheese fondue with fruits and vegetables, salad and tenderloin, shrimp, sirloin, chicken and fish with various dipping sauces.

"We are definitely an event-driven restaurant," said spokesman David L. Sieg. "People typically come out to celebrate with us. It's a wonderful group activity and very interactive."

The typical Melting Pot patron dines one to four times a year and generally spends about two hours at the restaurant. The average cost of a dinner is $39 per person.

Franchisees need between $600,000 and $1 million to open a Melting Pot.

Cheeburger Cheeburger, based in Ft. Myers, Fla., has more than 30 locations in the South and Northeast. The closest location is in Rochester. Cheeburger Cheeburger has already found a local franchisee, whose name it is not releasing at this time, said Bob Marcus, associate broker at NAI Pyramid Brokerage Co. and the exclusive representative of the chain in this market. Cheeburger Cheeburger is still searching for the location of its first restaurant and plans to open a few additional locations.

Franchisees make a total investment of $300,000 to $400,000.

Cheeburger Cheeburger is a reference to the Saturday Night Live sketch that immortalized the Billy Goat Tavern, a restaurant and bar under Chicago's Michigan Avenue. In the sketch, Greek restaurant workers would advertise the limited menu by yelling "Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!"

Cheeburger Cheeburger, which sells fries, chips, drinks and shakes, settled a trademark infringement lawsuit by agreeing not to open any burger joints within 125 miles of downtown Chicago.

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com