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Cheesecake Factory- a few facts


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Hi. This is my first post here. I saw a bunch of posts about the Cheesecake Factory - specifically in Hackensack, NJ- and saw things like the food comes frozen and wanted to point a few things out and shed some light on some of the myths and urban legends of the super-hyped disneyland of a restaurant that is the CF.

I consider that job to be one of the most horrible places to work of all the jobs I've had in my waitressing career, so what I say I consider to be unbiased.

1. The food is extremely fresh and every single thing is made when you order it. Very little is pre-prepped. Nothing is frozen or microwaved. In fact, they will not even press down on a steak with weight like they do in any other chain restaurant to speed the cooking time, that is a fireable offense. So, if you order well, you are going to wait. They don't want the steak losing any of its juices -which happens when you weight down a steak. This is one of the reasons why your dining experience will be the longest in your life and you will sit an average of 2 hours or more at your table after waiting 1 to 2 to 3 hours. This also is what causes the 3 hour waits. When you order chicken madeira, for example, the chef reduces veal stock (the real thing, not instand bouillion or anything like that) and makes the madeira sauce ingredient by ingredient to order. When you order chicken fingers for your children thinking it will be fast, they do not flour them until they are ordered and your children will not eat for at least 15 minutes if not 20. If you order pizza, they roll out the dough then and there. It is the ONLY chain restaurant I have worked in where the cooks really cook and do not just mix together a bunchy of pre-prepped or frozen stuff. There are like 7 cooking stations, saute, broil, pizza, salad, fry, and I am sure something else I forget. Food will not go out unless the plate looks perfect to specification. Many times, they will make the cook remake something because something is not perfect. The cooks really cook everything just like a real restaurant. That is a reason for the "open kitchen" so that you can see them cooking everything and also so you know how clean and wonderful the kitchen is.

2. The waits are almost deliberate. That is why no reservations, no call-ahead. And, if in every CF there are 2 to 3 hour waits virtually every night of the week, why don't they build the place bigger when they open a new one? Because they want you to wait 3 hours, it is part of the hype. Before we opened the restaurant, we had many meetings with silly music (they actually played the music that they call basketball players to the court with and said while all of the management and training staff ran down the aisle: Meet your new kitchen manager.. meet your new server manager. They had motivational speakers. It was dorky and I felt like I was in a freaky cult). Anyway, they shoved it in our heads many times that "people wait over 3 hours!!! to get into "our" restaurant. They want people to come in and think the place must be so fabulous if there is such a crowd waiting and dying to get in. Makes it almost exclusive-like, sort of. Why don't they try to figure out how to get food out faster and get people out faster? Because they don't want to! Too much actual cooking many, many different dishes for a restaurant that size takes a lot of time. Ticket times sometimes reach 45 minutes for appetizers. The most disorganized organization is what I called that place. They had exact procedures for everything, expeditors and at least 5 food runners per shift, managers walking around with head sets, yet food goes to the wrong table constantly, cooks make things wrong and somehow special orders (lite sauce, no mushrooms, etc) are not heard or not communicated, things aren't ready for the same table at the same time so they send out 2 entrees leaving 1 person without food for 15 minutes on a table.... All this adds up to longer times that people sit at tables and why it takes so long for you to get a table.

3. The beepers work until Sharper Image in the mall. When I worked there, the customers were told that when they got their beeper; customers went to Houstons and got a beeper, and to CF and got a beeper, whichever went off first was the place they went. Then, they left beepers all over the mall. They cost A LOT of money to keep replacing. So, now they tell you you can't leave the restaurant. It's a lie.

4. The cheesecake is made in a factory in Texas and is frozen and shipped. It is then thawed. That is why sometimes they run out, sometimes they do run out, other times, the bakery waits till they are out of something and *then* tells a manager and then the manager gets it from the freezer and it has to be thawed to be served. I don't think it's a big deal, it tastes good anyway. Imagine though, you are a waiter/waitress, someone asks for a recommendation for cheesecake.. You sell them on the Oreo cheesecake. You put it in the computer. You go to the bakery to the area where you would pick up your cheesecake for said table. There are several pieces of cheesecake, none are yours. "Run desserts, people. Don't just stand there." is shouted at you. So you run a few, come back and check and still no dessert for your table. The bakery staff is working on the line of people going out the door and no one is working on the desserts for tables. So, you go do something else for another table. "Run food. Let's go, food in the window! Let's get it out" is shouted at you. You are now in the weeds... You are sat 2 tables and they are looking around for a waitress. But, you dutifully run food. Go to 2 new tables. Both are not happy, one asks for kid's menus. We don't have any. Not happy. One table has no idea what to get, as they peruse the menu while you stand there fidgeting thinking about the other table's cheesecake. You make several suggestions thoroughly describing each dish (because most people do not know what something like Thai Chicken Pasta entails and everything has to be described and I must say whether or not I like this dish). This table decides they need more time. Phew, on to the bakery to get my dessert. I see the table waiting and try not to make eye contact, but I know they are looking around very anxious and almost annoyed, wondering what in the world could take so long to get a dessert. Go back to bakery. Bakery staff person tells you, sorry we are out of Oreo cheesecake, we just put it into the computer. Great, I am so glad they put it in now as opposed to when they really ran out so when I ordered it 15 minutes ago, the computer would have told me! So, now, after all that time, I have to go back to my table and tell them that sorry the wonderful Oreo cheesecake I talked you into is out of stock. There goes my tip and this leads to #5....

5. I can not say how many times I heard: "you must make SOOO much money here" when I waited tables at CF. If I had a nickel for everytime I heard that, I wouldn't have to wait tables... Sometimes, yes the money can be good, but not that much better than some other restaurants. In fact, I work somewhere now where the food is so cheap, the customers are cheap and miserable and I make much better money more consistently than I did at the CF even though the food is pretty expensive (a check for 2 people can be $75 EASY) and the clientelle supposedly a bit higher class. A. They made us tip out a minimum of 27 and a half percent of our tips, but more like a third plus some. So, on a Saturday night, if you have $150 in your pocket, you hand about $50 out to the busboy, foodrunner (even though you are constantly yelled at to run food no matter how busy you are and how long your tables are sitting there before you can get to them), and bar. B. People who wait 3 hours for a table are miserable and crabby and miserable, crabby people are usually miserable tippers. And, trust me I gave GREAT service and rarely scewed up. In addition, all the screw ups that happen due to the size of the place as I mentioned previously, cause mistakes to happen to your customer's food and then you get screwed on tips. C. Since every table has appetizers which can take 1/2 hour to 45 mins sometimes, and then the dinners take forever, and EVERYONE has dessert, you have no turnover. You can get 25% tips from all your tables, but you make more money if you can turn your tables faster. It is definitely quantity of tables versus quality of tips except in rare cases that makes a waitress money. D. If you work in smoking in the bar, the middle high-top tables are first come, first serve... people waiting for tables park themselves there and order drinks from the bar and take up your table while you make no money from them at all and there is nothing you can or are allowed to do about it. All of those factors add up to sometimes you make good money, sometimes not - when you bust your ass on very long shifts and deal with a lot of hostile, not so happy people and sometimes a very stressful work environment- it was all not worth it! The most I ever made was on a 14 hour straight through double with a 5 minute break while I shoveled food in my mouth sitting in a corner on a milk crate with someone yelling at me that I should hurry as it is unfair to the person watching my station; I felt like I was in a war zone by the end of the night- beat up and disheveled. I've made more at my job in a 'dive' now in a 7 hour dinner shift than that double.

6. They make the wait staff wear all white because the owner is superstitious and thinks white causes people to be hungry. That in addtion to they think it is very neat and clean looking and makes peole think everything is neat and clean. All white would be ok if you didn't have to touch any food, but when you are sometimes almost elbow deep scraping out a dressing container or you stack plates with sauces on your arms and go the other side of the Earth with them trying to not get bumped into as you weave through crowds, white sucks. I burned holes in my clothes from all the bleach!

I don't know any recipes, everything is top secret. We had to know the key ingredients (like what is in tex mex eggrolls) and everything on the menu thoroughly, but we never saw recipes. We even had to sign a confidentiality contract.

The only way I know of to get a table faster: sometimes when I was in smoking, people would bribe me to give them tables. Yep! I did it! By the time the hostess passed the table to check if it was "open" like they do, someone was sitting and they didn't know it was someone not from their list; no one was the wiser and I was $10 or $20 richer. Nope, no guilt for it either. If you are desperate, I would try that.

I eat there myself nowadays, but not so often because I want appetizers, salad, entree and dessert and I end up with a huge check. But, I don't wait more than 45 minutes so I go later in the night after prime dinner time.

Tip 20%. www.tip20.com

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great posting. i've only been to CF once & thought it was pretty good, but was amazed at the time people were happy to wait for a table for a chain restaurant! everytime you go by the one in Riverside Square, it's mobbed. it's like a cult. it's good to hear that the food is real & cooked to order, but why anyone would want to sit there for 3 hours is beyond me. thanks for the insight into CF.

www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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Yow! A glimpse inside the dark Satanic cheesecake mills... Welcome, fyre!

The beepers work until Sharper Image in the mall. When I worked there, the customers were told that when they got their beeper; customers went to Houstons and got a beeper, and to CF and got a beeper, whichever went off first was the place they went. Then, they left beepers all over the mall. They cost A LOT of money to keep replacing. So, now they tell you you can't leave the restaurant. It's a lie.

Why don't they just take a driver's license as a deposit?

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What an interesting post into the inner workings of this chain. I'm amazed at the beeper thing and the three hour wait... I've seem people freak at grocery stores if the wait was too long..it seems unimagineable to me that anyone would wait that long for a meal. It's like they are under a spell!

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..it seems unimagineable to me that anyone would wait that long for a meal. It's like they are under a spell!

I couldn't agree more!

When I used to ride the bus home in Atlanta, I'd pass right by a Cheesecake Factory. Every single night it was mobbed, every table full, and scores of folks milling about the entryway. I could never understand what the draw was.

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I couldn't agree more!

When I used to ride the bus home in Atlanta, I'd pass right by a Cheesecake Factory.  Every single night it was mobbed, every table full, and scores of folks milling about the entryway.  I could never understand what the draw was.

all of those places have lines. olive garden, outback, et al. the appeal, i suppose, is consistency. of course, they're all horribly mediocre, but most of america doesn't like surprises.

Edited by tommy (log)
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What's the difference between waiting three hours for a table, and making restaurant reservations a month or more in advance? Because I wouldn't do the former, but I do do the latter. I'm not sure that my behavior is any less zombie-like than the CF's patrons'.

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What's the difference between waiting three hours for a table, and making restaurant reservations a month or more in advance?  Because I wouldn't do the former, but I do do the latter.  I'm not sure that my behavior is any less zombie-like than the CF's patrons'.

But the point was made that even if not allowed to roam the mall, they are still waiting, inside or right near the CF, for a table..when making your reservation, you have invested the 10 minutes on the phone obtaining it ( assuming its not the FL! :smile: ) and have that month, weeks, days and hours free right up to the time you need to leave to get to your restaurant destination. These folks are food prisoners at CF!!

I guess my point, as a rather over scheduled person, is that I understand why they might like the food ( as Tommy mentioned, no suprises) but I don't understand who these people are who value their time so little that they would surrender three hours waiting for a table. I am a person who values time..I could accomplish a lot in three hours...what exactly do they DO while they wait? Do they bring a book? Laptops? Play charades?

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We love the CF and eat there regularly, and I was so pleased by your post explaining how fresh everything is. I think the food is great-- there's just so much of it that we end up taking home half the meal in order to have cheesecake.

We go early to avoid the wait. We have lunch there a lot at 11:30 or 12, or eat at 5 or 5:30 because my Picky Eater won't wait anywhere. We also found a new CF that opened in downtown Ft. Lauderdale without any fanfare, and for weeks after it opened no one knew about it and we could get in right away.

Neil

Author of the Mahu series of mystery novels set in Hawaii.

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But the  point was made that even if not allowed to roam the mall, they are still waiting, inside or right near the CF, for a table..when making your reservation, you have invested the 10 minutes on the phone obtaining it ( assuming its not the FL! :smile: ) and have that month, weeks, days and hours free right up to the time you need to leave to get to your restaurant destination.  These folks are food prisoners at CF!!

I guess my point, as a rather over scheduled person, is that I understand why they might like the food ( as Tommy mentioned, no suprises) but I don't understand who these people are who value their time so little that they would surrender three hours waiting for a table. I am a person who values time..I could accomplish a lot in three hours...what exactly do they DO while they wait? Do they bring a book? Laptops? Play charades?

I'm making the assumption that, dire warnings to the contrary, people do spend their three hours wandering the mall. So they get there early, take a number, then go shopping. If you like going to the mall, then it's not such a bad use of time. And you can do it in a relatively spur-of-the-moment kind of way. If at lunch you decide you want CF for dinner, you can have it.

Whereas when I make a reservation a month out, not only do I have to wait a month, I also have to know that I'll be able to eat that night, at that time. For overscheduled people, that can be even tougher.

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What's the difference between waiting three hours for a table, and making restaurant reservations a month or more in advance?  Because I wouldn't do the former, but I do do the latter.  I'm not sure that my behavior is any less zombie-like than the CF's patrons'.

Andrew , it depends on the restaurant. If u are making reservations for a "Cheescake Factory" type place a month in advance then there is a problem.

Another difference is that when you make reservations you are not actually waiting, sitting on a bench or walking aimlessly in a mega-mall waiting for the all sacred beeper to go off so u can satisfy your hunger.

great post Fyre and welcome to e-gullet

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I guess my point, as a rather over scheduled person, is that I understand why they might like the food ( as Tommy mentioned, no suprises) but I don't understand who these people are who value their time so little that they would surrender three hours waiting for a table.  I am a person who values time..I could accomplish a lot in three hours...what exactly do they DO while they wait? Do they bring a book? Laptops? Play charades?

it boggles the mind. think of all the posting a guy like me could do in those 3 hours.

i have somewhat of an unwritten rule: i don't wait in line for dinner.

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II'm making the assumption that, dire warnings to the contrary, people do spend their three hours wandering the mall.  So they get there early, take a number, then go shopping.  If you like going to the mall, then it's not such a bad use of time.

I guess you're right...I'm not too familiar with the place, but from the comments from some of these posts, there was so many mentions of crowds and people milling around, I thought they waited at the restaurant itself. I'm going to stick with making reservtions, myself. :cool:

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II'm making the assumption that, dire warnings to the contrary, people do spend their three hours wandering the mall.  So they get there early, take a number, then go shopping.  If you like going to the mall, then it's not such a bad use of time.

I guess you're right...I'm not too familiar with the place, but from the comments from some of these posts, there was so many mentions of crowds and people milling around, I thought they waited at the restaurant itself. I'm going to stick with making reservtions, myself. :cool:

i thought i read that they're not allowed to leave the restaurant?

and some of them aren't in malls to begin with.

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Andrew , it depends on the restaurant. If u are making reservations for a "Cheescake Factory" type place a month in advance then there is a problem.

Well, I intentionally didn't make any comparisons as to the kind of food, because I don't think that's relevant to the discussion. Some people like one kind of place, others like another: what's at issue is the wait.

Another difference is that when you make reservations you are not actually waiting, sitting on a bench or walking aimlessly in a mega-mall waiting for the all sacred beeper to go off so u can satisfy your hunger.

And again, if you like going to the mall, what's the problem with walking around? And if you're sitting on a bench talking to your dining companion, is that so bad? Shouldn't we be happy for a chance to just sit and talk for three hours?

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And if you're sitting on a bench talking to your dining companion, is that so bad? Shouldn't we be happy for a chance to just sit and talk for three hours?

Three hours of talking is fine, in a nice atmosphere, a glass or two fo wine, perhaps on a lovely patio or an intimate setting or a funky coffee bar...but, and I don't profess to know a lot about the decor of the CF, I'm assuming its REd Lobster /Olive Garden like decor, which is mostly benches in the entrance foyer, and a few bistro tables at the bar.

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Yeah, I don't really know what the decor is like, either. My point is just that you always hear about how busy people are, what with the overwork, the taking the kids to soccer, yada yada yada... It's probably hard for lots of folks to just sit and talk at home, without turning on the TV or doing some chores; and it's also probably tough to schedule time to sit and talk at a restaurant, bar or patio. An enforced situation where you have nothing to do but talk, even in sub-optimal conditions, isn't such a bad thing.

Though I still suspect you could just go shopping with beeper. How would they stop you?

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Yeah, I don't really know what the decor is like, either.  My point is just that you always hear about how busy people are, what with the overwork, the taking the kids to soccer, yada yada yada...  It's probably hard for lots of folks to just sit and talk at home, without turning on the TV or doing some chores; and it's also probably tough to schedule time to sit and talk at a restaurant, bar or patio.  An enforced situation where you have nothing to do but talk, even in sub-optimal conditions, isn't such a bad thing.

I'm all for talking, so I'm with you there, Andrew.

But if I required enforced situations like the one we're discussing, I'd choose not to talk.

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