After six years of nearly constant double-digit increases, customer counts are flat for the Melting Pot fondue specialty chain. Flat does not feel good, but it’s better than negative, conceded Bob Johnston, president and chief operating officer of The Melting Pot Inc., the Tampa, Fla.-based franchisor or operator of 131 restaurants in 36 states. The chain has not been immune from today’s challenging economy of mounting unemployment, rising food and labor costs, and falling ...

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