A new Cheesecake Factory restaurant has come to my neighborhood and, as a cheesecake aficionado, that makes me glad.
I had the opportunity to tour the new restaurant while it was still under construction. I always marvel at how lucky some businesses are that are successful the moment they open, as this one will undoubtedly be. People find you when you are that lucky; you don’t have to work to bring them in, the downfall of so many other businesses.
But those who operate The Cheesecake Factory Inc., the largest grossing restaurant chain in the U.S. might argue with the term lucky. A LOT of work has gone into the growing of this chain since the 1940s when Evelyn Overton began making cheesecakes to sell from a small shop and eventually from her home’s basement in Detroit.
Needless to say, the business has come a long way, with 20 new restaurants opening this year alone. One of these new ones, and the one closest to me, is located in the parking lot of the Ross Park Mall in the North Hills section of Pittsburgh. (There is also one located on the South Side of Pittsburgh).
When you step inside the new restaurant, however, you could be anywhere in the country: That’s something the company does well -- recreates its beautiful ambiance in every location so guests know what to expect.
Like its predecessors, this restaurant features Egyptian columns, Italian marble floors, hand-painted murals, hand-blown glass fixtures and cherry wood throughout. It’s a pretty place to eat, which may be one reason for the long lines that form at all The Cheesecake Factories. (Last spring, we gave our name to the hostess at the Easton Center location in Columbus, OH, and waited an hour just to be handed a beeper. Then we waited 45 minutes more for the beeper to go off and let us know there was a table ready.) That sounds crazy -- and it is -- but for cheesecake, one of the true Wonders of the World, people will wait.
Combined with an eclectic menu (18 pages long), big portions and those signature cheesecakes, people flock to the restaurants. The staff is well-trained to make sure customers have a good experience while visiting the restaurant and leave happy, planning a return visit. That is something that’s hard to achieve on a consistent basis, of course, but the company assures us that is the goal.
At the end of this year, there will be over 110 Cheesecake Factory restaurants and each one grosses $11 million a year. Eighty percent of them are located in malls or “lifestyle centers,” a new catch phrase for destinations that include shopping, restaurants and other leisure amenities such as movie theaters.
"We listen to our guests and take good care of them," according to Senior Vice President Howard Gordon. Menu substitutions are not a problem at Cheesecake Factory as they can be at some restaurants, nor are there fees for “sharing” an entrée or more commonly, a giant slice of cheesecake, something that is encouraged by the wait staff.
Taking home a “doggie” bag is de rigueur at the restaurants, but a more recent menu change includes smaller lunch-sized portions, again a result of customers’ wishes. Gordon says people don’t want to carry their leftovers back to work, so smaller portions are the ticket at lunch time, if you so choose.
Responding to a question about how the company's menu meshes with healthier lifestyle choices being encouraged by nutrition experts, Gordon says that guests are “much more educated” about food than they used to be. “They know what to eat to be healthy,” he adds, and those items, such as grilled fish and steamed vegetables are always available.
The cheesecakes, which launched this successful enterprise, are baked in Los Angeles (28,000 a day) and shipped out to the restaurants. But once a newly operational bakery in Rocky Mountain, NC is up to speed, it will be supplying the baked goods to the eastern part of the country, bringing the total number of cheesecakes made in a day to 76,000.
For more information, visit www.TheCheesecakeFactory.com .
Favorite Cheesecake Flavors
I hated to ask the obvious question but somebody has to, right?
The most popular cheesecakes sold at The Cheesecake Factory, according to Howard Gordon, are:
- Original Cheesecake with fresh strawberries
- White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
- Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake
By Teresa K. Flatley