TAKING THE CAKE, DRINKS TO MATCH
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY TAKES AIM AT PERFECTION
Clockwise from top left: Dutch Apple Caramel Streusel, Chocolate Raspberry Trouffle®,
Key Lime Cheesecake, Chocolate Pecan Turtle, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake,
6 Carb Original Cheesecake™.
Its interior spaces vary from 5,400 to 17,300 square feet, and soar to faraway ceilings, the long bars equipped with gleaming Cobra beer taps. They take no reservations, and whenever the doors open, crowds seem to gather. Their numbers bear out their success: The Cheesecake Factory will average 800,000 guests a year at 77 national locations this year, with a customer average at about $16.
While the eclectic interior décor combines the polished black-and-white limestone tiles of European cafés, lotus columns of the Temple of Dendur, hand-painted walls of a Tuscan villa, light fixtures of an Art Nouveau bistro and warm wood tones of a fine old pub, these disparate elements send a single signal: that there is something here for everyone. The Cheesecake Factory represents a “no veto” restaurant; that is, no member of a group would overrule choosing it. Instead of individual votes chiming in “I don’t want…” against a particular cuisine, the unanimous vote tolls “Let’s all have what we want.”
And that rings up sales: more than three-quarters of a billion dollars last year. Handling a large and varied menu over so many operating hours at such high volume in individual restaurants and across the chain challenges every level of management. But The Cheesecake Factory started small, as the home business of a good cook who made a great cheesecake, and grew slowly (see sidebar). Mastery came with experience. Then the chain seemed to grow overnight like bamboo.
Snickers® Bar Chunks And Cheesecake
This year, The Cheesecake Factory added another trophy to its case: the Cheers award for best overall beverage excellence, a nod to beverage’s 14 to 15 percent of total sales for the chain. As Howard Gordon, senior vice president for business development and marketing, points out, “we pay attention to our beverage program. After all, the first four pages of our menu are beverages!”
PAGING THROUGH THE BAR
US Cheesecake Factory locations
Those four pages include 13 specialty drinks, six super creamy drinks, four Margaritas, 13 Martinis and eight coffee drinks made with whiskey, rum, cordials and whipped cream. There’s a full page of wines, 35 sold by both bottle and glass, and another of beers, spirits and cordials. Non-alcoholic selections include fresh fruit drinks and frozen drinks blended with ice, black and herb teas, hot chocolate and cold apple cider.
Russell Greene, senior vice president for beverage and bakery operations, started as a server with The Cheesecake Factory 21 years ago. “When I think of how far we’ve come,” he says, “with the restaurants and our beverage program it seems amazing! The beverages at our first Beverly Hills restaurant were basic shakes, malts, iced tea. There were no bartenders, and none were needed to serve the two beers we offered, the Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, Mateus Rosé, and a couple of red wines.
“We did offer Perrier mineral water, an unusual item then, and we were far ahead of our time in our coffee program. (Founder) David Overton went to law school in San Francisco, and he loved the coffeehouse culture and fine roasts of the Bay Area. From the beginning, we served good coffee and espresso that paired well with the desserts, and we offer a fine coffee service today, as well as a range of espresso drinks.”
Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake
When Overton decided the time was right to open another restaurant, he chose Marina del Rey. “David led us into new areas,” Greene says. “There was a beachfront bar and one upstairs, and he decided the beach atmosphere fresh air, relaxation would guide our food and beverage program. What we served would be made from fresh ingredients and it would be fun. The Super Creamy Drinks, for example, are all made with ice cream, and they seem like natural extensions of the dessert menu. Reading the ingredients of The Flying Gorilla, you might think of a banana split fresh banana, chocolate, ice cream, cr