It’s grown from what was at first housewife’s at-home operation to one of the most famous restaurant chains with about 200 locations. But what is it really like working at The Cheesecake Factory? Here we reveal 40 secrets behind the iconic brand that has been named one of the best companies to be an employee.
40. It came from humble beginnings
The Cheesecake Factory is now a major chain and exists around the world. So it’s hard to believe that it started out in the basement of Evelyn Overton back in the 1940s. Overton used to make cheesecake in the basement of her Detroit home and then sell it to restaurants nearby.
39. Recipes are shared online… but the cheesecake recipe is a secret
Fans of The Cheesecake Factory can recreate some of their favorite dishes at home. That’s because the company website features several of its recipes, including how to make savory items, pancakes and waffles. However, one recipe that you won’t find on there is for the cheesecake, as that is kept a strict secret.
38. It was named one of the best companies to work for
The Cheesecake Factory is considered one of the ultimate places to work. It is after all the only restaurant company that has made the Fortune list of 100 Best Companies To Work For multiple years running. The Cheesecake Factory has remained a fixture on the list since 2014, and in 2019 it was ranked in the 25th spot.
37. General managers are given BMWs
Working your way up the ladder at The Cheesecake Factory leads to impressive perks. For example, general managers get to drive BMW cars that are leased to them through the company. Interestingly, some other food companies have it even better. Managers at In-N-Out are paid more than $100,000 a year and even given paid holidays with partners.
36. The original cheesecake recipe came from a newspaper
Although Overton’s recipe has become famous, it actually wasn’t her own. She originally discovered it in a newspaper and decided to give it a try. Clearly, it was a hit. And the homemaker then began creating cheesecakes to sell at her home, using baking equipment she had moved into her basement.
35. Nutritional information lacks
Meanwhile, the signature dish isn’t the only thing that’s shrouded in mystery at The Cheesecake Factory. Nutritional information for the food is not available online, and in fact in print it exists only at locations in states required to share such facts. But it’s safe to say that it’s not a spot for healthy eating, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest discovered that three of the highest-calorie dishes at any restaurant could be found at The Cheesecake Factory.
34. Cheesecakes aren’t made in store
Those cheesecakes that you see proudly on display in each location weren’t made in-house. In fact, all of the cheesecakes are baked at headquarters in Calabasas, California, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Then they are shipped frozen across the country and defrosted for around one or two hours before serving.
33. There are restaurants around the globe
The Cheesecake Factory is known for being an American brand, but it actually has about 200 locations around the world – including in some surprising places. In Dubai, The Cheesecake Factory is at the base of an indoor ski slope. What’s more, there’s one in Saudi Arabia, one in Puerto Rico and one in Kuwait.
32. There’s no professional taster
If you think a professional taster selects each dish at The Cheesecake Factory, you’d be wrong. However, they are all sampled before going on the menu – by Overton’s son: David. He still tastes and approves every single item, as well as choosing the music that plays in the restaurants.
31. Hawaii’s Diamond Head volcanic cone inspired the Luau Salad
One popular item that has been on the menu at The Cheesecake Factory is the Luau Salad. The salad includes tropical flavors and crispy wonton sheets – and there’s apparently an explanation behind its unique look. The way that the salad is put together is supposedly inspired by the volcanic cone of Diamond Head in Hawaii.
30. Each location has to make 100 sauces each day
There are in excess of 100 sauces used at The Cheesecake Factory – and none of them comes from a bottle. Instead, they all have to be prepared fresh at each restaurant location every single day. One of these is a tamarind-cashew dipping sauce that is especially complicated and takes around an hour to make.
29. Customers can purchase the sauces and famous brown bread
The Cheesecake Factory’s sauces are well liked, and so is its iconic brown bread. “At McDonald’s, it’s the french fries. At The Cheesecake Factory, it’s the bread,” the brand’s chief culinary officer, Donald Moore, told Today in March 2019. And customers can also have the items at home. The bread is available to buy in grocery stores, and any sauce can be purchased directly from the restaurants.
28. It gives back
As a company, The Cheesecake Factory cares about giving back. It has its own nonprofit organization that has brought in more than $2.5 million for clinical research center City of Hope. Additionally, The Cheesecake Factory does its part to salvage food and prevent waste and gives 500,000 pounds of food each year to people in need.
27. It invented carrot cake cheesecake
The cheesecake may not be an original recipe, but the restaurant has taken the dish to the next level. As a joke, a carrot cake cheesecake was once created for a friend, and it became so popular that it is still on the menu. You can thank The Cheesecake Factory for being the first to create the dish.
26. It’s loyal to its employees
All these years later, Overton continues to play a big part in his family business. And he’s not the only one who has stayed with the company for decades. Proving just how loyal The Cheesecake Factory is to its employees and vice versa, the original test baker that it hired in 1977 is now working as its vice president of Guest Experience.
25. There are secret menu items
It’s well known that the menu at The Cheesecake Factory is gigantic. But customers can still ask for items that are not on the menu as well. That famous brown bread? Any sandwich can be substituted with it, and the club sandwich is said to be particularly delicious with that adaptation.
24. It was originally a bakery, and the first restaurant opened in 1978
Although The Cheesecake Factory started out in a basement kitchen, Overton had big dreams of some day owning her own bakery. And she made that a reality in 1972, starting a bakery in Los Angeles with what was left of her savings. Then in 1978 her son David opened the first restaurant, naming it The Cheesecake Factory because it was the best moniker that he could think of.
23. All the food is prepared fresh every day
The cheesecakes are actually the only things that are not prepared in-house. Everything else is made in the restaurant locations, and that is why dishes can easily be modified. And preparing the various menu items from scratch is no easy task – it starts at 6:00 a.m. and involves 700 ingredients.
22. Customers can order cheesecakes to be delivered to their homes
You don’t have to go to The Cheesecake Factory to sample its famous dessert. Harry & David sells food and gifts, including cheesecakes from The Cheesecake Factory that can be shipped to you. Not all of them can be ordered this way, but original, chocolate mousse and white chocolate raspberry truffle are among those available for delivery.
21. Wait staff spend a full week training and have to learn how to tie a tie
The Cheesecake Factory may be considered one of the best places to work, but it also has high standards. According to a former server, there’s a rigorous training process. “There is a weeklong training that lasts all day, at which you learn everything,” an anonymous waitress told Refinery29 in 2017. “I had to learn how to tie a tie, which I didn’t know how to do.”
20. Servers have to use specific language
Interestingly, wait staff at The Cheesecake Factory have to be careful about what they say. “We also had to learn certain phrases. You never say ‘No,’ you say, ‘I’m sorry.’ You don’t say ‘Yes,’ you say, ‘Absolutely,’” the waitress revealed. “There were also certain things you were supposed to say about dishes that got sent back often, like, ‘The jambalaya is spicy, is that okay?’ ‘That dish comes with onions, is that okay?’”
19. Wait staff must wear spotless monochrome uniforms
Servers at The Cheesecake Factory are always smartly dressed in white shirts and aprons. And while they used to wear white pants, they now sport black ones. Nevertheless, one thing about the monochromatic uniforms has not changed: they have to keep them spotless no matter how many times they spill stuff on them.
18. Employees get half-off discounts, and chefs get free meals
During the training process, employees sample The Cheesecake Factory’s dishes to get a better idea of what they’re selling. And when they’re working, they typically are given half-off discounts for their meals. But the chefs get an even better deal on their food, as they are given completely free meals.
17. Employees have to showcase the cheesecakes at the end of a customer’s meal
Some people may head to The Cheesecake Factory for an entirely savory meal. But the cheesecake is the star of the show. and the company wants you to know that. That’s why servers are required to present the cheesecakes on offer to customers at the end of their meal, even if they’ve made it clear that they don’t want dessert.
16. It’s hard work but a great training ground
Being a server at The Cheesecake Factory may be more demanding than working for some other restaurant chains. Which is why a former employee admitted that it is an intense place to work but was good training. “I’m glad I have the experience because, for one, it gives me stories, but I also think it’s good to have that hardcore server experience,” she told Refinery29. “But you couldn’t pay me to repeat it.”
15. The most popular flavor of cheesecake is red velvet
There are a total of 35 different cheesecakes, including some that are only available at certain times of the year. For example, the peppermint bark cheesecake is only on offer during the holiday season, and the pumpkin cheesecake becomes available in the fall. But despite the wide variety, it’s the red velvet that is by far the most popular.
14. Staff do team-building and are bought a meal if they do a double shift
One Cheesecake Factory worker did an “ask me anything” session on Reddit, giving an insight into working life there. And when asked to reveal something surprising, they shared that they get rewards through office well-being program Keas. “They have a team building health-food point based game they run with Keas for prizes and I think that is so cool!” the server wrote. “They also buy every employee a meal that works a double shift that day, as well as for other reasons.”
13. Staff don’t get a lot of breaks
Being employed at The Cheesecake Factory means a lot of hard work. And on the Glassdoor website, some employees admitted that one of the downsides to the job is that it’s rare to get a break. The anonymous server confirmed this to Refinery29, admitting that you could only take a break if you got someone to cover for you.
12. You get a lot of crazy customer complaints
Seeing as The Cheesecake Factory is such a large chain, it won’t come as a surprise that servers have to get used to customers complaining. They’re taught to warn guests about spicy dishes and accommodate modifications, but that doesn’t stop them from receiving grievances. “Someone might send back the pulled pork because it wasn’t pulled enough,” the waitress said. “It would never have occurred to me to make that kind of complaint.”
11. Servers have to learn the entire menu
It’s not just how to dress and what to say that servers have to learn during their rigorous training process. They also have to memorize details of every single item on the menu. And with 21 pages and over 250 dishes available, it’s easy to see why wait staff admitted that this can take months.
10. Applicants have to complete a 30-minute behavioral assessment
Around 35,000 people work for The Cheesecake Factory. And an interview isn’t the only way that employers determine who will be a good fit to join their staff. “Our applicants complete an online behavioral assessment that takes about 30 minutes,” vice president of talent selection Claire Prager told Cosmopolitan in 2015. “It is designed to help predict their on-the-job performance.”
9. Even part-time employees get full benefits (and free cheesecake)
So why was The Cheesecake Factory named one of the best places to work several years in a row? Well, the perks for all staff members certainly factor toward that. Even part-time employees receive full benefits, just so long as they work at least 25 hours a week. Apparently, they also get free cheesecake.
8. There’s a reason the menu is 6,000 words long
It’s no accident that the menu is 6,000 words long. Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide To Creating Customers With Word Of Mouth authors Daniel Lemin and Jay Baer claimed that this is “a built-in differentiator that creates customer conversations.” What that means is that The Cheesecake Factory obtains free advertising by getting people to talk about their menu and share it online.
7. The menu changes twice a year
Some items are fixtures on The Cheesecake Factory menu and have been for years. But others are swapped in and out when the menu is changed, which always takes place twice a year. “We usually add ten to 12 things and take off ten to 12 things,” Moore explained to Today.
6. David Overton still has the final decision on the menu
Decades after founding The Cheesecake Factory, David Overton is still an important part of the company. He remains its CEO, and he is also heavily involved in the menu. As well as taste testing every single item that goes on there, he decides what goes onto the menu and what is taken off each time it changes.
5. The simple recipe for the cheesecake has never changed
Despite how much The Cheesecake Factory has grown, one thing that’s stayed the same is the recipe. Overton told Vice in 2016, “We haven’t changed the recipe of my mother. We just make new ones with new things inside: flavors.” He added, “We just try to make it as good as she did. You can’t patent it. Good cheesecake is just five ingredients. It’s just how you mix them.”
4. The avocado egg rolls take four hours to make
The avocado egg rolls are the best-loved appetizer on The Cheesecake Factory menu – and they’re a big reason that the company gets through 3.1 million pounds of avocado each year. But it takes four hours to prepare them daily. There are around 20 steps and 18 ingredients to make just the sauce that comes with the egg rolls.
3. The chicken is butchered and processed in-house
Another of the most time-consuming dishes to create is also one of the most popular. The chicken madeira is a favorite of The Cheesecake Factory and takes a long time to cook from scratch. The chicken is butchered in each location, and the meat has to be pounded for between two and four hours every day.
2. Guests can still get the factory burger
Meanwhile, some were disappointed when the factory burger was taken off the menu. However, the dish that consisted of a cheeseburger on the famous brown bread can still be ordered upon request. This is particularly true at the original location of The Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills, California, where guests need only ask if they want the factory burger.
1. They know who their most loyal customers are
Finally, a couple named Chuck and Odette Ebersole visit The Cheesecake Factory between ten and 12 times per week – and have been customers for 30 years. “I absolutely know Chuck and Odette still eat at The Cheesecake Factory every week because if something isn’t up to their liking, I get an email,” Moore told Today. “They’re our best guests. They’re a part of our culture at The Cheesecake Factory.”