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Gifted Gourmet

Cheesecake Factory R&D: Diversifying American Food

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Time Magazine article

Every six months, the restaurant's R&D chefs winnow hundreds of ideas for new menu items--the Cheesecake Factory's version of American Idol ...Like an annual family portrait, every new Cheesecake Factory menu holds up a mirror to the American palate, revealing how it has grown and changed... With its kitchen-sink menu and gargantuan portions, the Cheesecake Factory is big-tent cuisine at its most expansive. It is a restaurant where everything is included but nothing is authentic, and it is changing the way we think about American food... the Cheesecake Factory is the closest thing in the restaurant business to democracy in action.

This is an extremely interesting article on how the R & D of the Cheesecake Factory comes to their decisions on what will sell in their restaurants ...

Do you think that they have done this type of dining experience a disservice or is it all quite commercially "brilliant"? :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Commercially, they must be doing something right. The Nashville branch opened about 6 months ago (at the mall), and despite lackluster reviews, every day the line to get in snakes along the sidewalk like a Friday at Galatoire's. With a no-reservations policy, people seem to have no hesitation to wait an hour or more for a table. Someone once said that PF Chang's was chinese food for people who didn't like their chinese "too chinese." TCF sounds similar, a smorgasborg of safe tastes and large portion sizes.


LPM - Nashville-Based Food Enthusiast

Personal Blog: Boston Dreams and Michelin Stars

lpm@wardandsmith.com

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I just saw the guys on Squawk Box talking about this piece in Time. THere will be a second discussion on Power Lunch on CNBC. The company will not list calories for the items on their menus because it would cost them like $45,000 per menu. Are they really afraid that that will cause them to lose business when people are faced with reality? I have to admit that I do not dine there, I have not been impressed with what they serve. Plus, we don't have one here. This is one of the few markets they have not tried to claim with obscene portions.


Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Here in upstate New York in the capital district one is opening shortly. That is often reported on the local news and has everybody talking. Big news I guess. :wink:


Robert R

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There was a series a couple of years ago in FTV called 'Into The Fire' that profiled them amongst others.

The exec chef & owners eat their way around the country (world? NOBU etc.

) and dumb it down a bit for their menu.

There was a HUGE thread here a few years ago on them, pages & pages of it!!!

Just did a search for it but las, I failed :biggrin:

If you have the time, there's endless reading for days in it, no kidding!


2317/5000

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Commercially, they must be doing something right.  The Nashville branch opened about 6 months ago (at the mall), and despite lackluster reviews, every day the line to get in snakes along the sidewalk like a Friday at Galatoire's.  With a no-reservations policy, people seem to have no hesitation to wait an hour or more for a table.  Someone once said that PF Chang's was chinese food for people who didn't like their chinese "too chinese."  TCF sounds similar, a smorgasborg of safe tastes and large portion sizes.

i don't get it - does every Cheesecake Factory have lines snaking out of them.\? Everyone i've ever passed has, and it's jsut a bit odd, because the food really isn't that wonderful.

I mean TGIF and Ruby Teusdays and the like don't have the lines. so strange.


Edited by tryska (log)

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Same thing here in Cleveland, we have 2 locations and they are consistently on one hour-plus waits.

I think most of it is novelty and it being something new, like when we first got a CPK, which I think serves really mediocre pizza. I talk to people that have eaten there and they all seem to say the same thing I did after I ate there - I don't get it, it's just ok, it wasn't anything fantastic.

I think it just seems BIG! FAMOUS! to people in this part of the country. I bet Friday's got the same reception when they first opened in these parts.

For what it's worth, I worked at the first Macaroni Grill when it opened here and it was the same thing - we were on a 2 hour wait on weeknights for the entire first 3 months we were open, constantly slammed. I think it's just because it's new. Eventually things settle down and they blend in with all the other chain restaurants.

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well i wish i could blame our lines on "the new" but this has been going strong for at least 8 years now. and i live in Atlanta, so it's not like it's the only game in town.

I just don't get it.

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I think this is the topic Ted mentioned up-thread... :smile:

I had read that thread too, Megan, before posting this but since it is (a) an older thread dating back some years and (b) the thread focused upon the experience of an employee, I determined that this new thread needed to focus upon R&D at Cheesecake Factory which Time Magazine looks at in depth.

big-tent cuisine at its most expansive. It is a restaurant where everything is included but nothing is authentic, and it is changing the way we think about American food... is what I hope the discussion here will look at in depth ...

Does it fulfill your dining hopes in its offerings of "melded cuisine"?? :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I think this is the topic Ted mentioned up-thread... :smile:

I had read that thread too, Megan, before posting this but since it is (a) an older thread dating back some years and (b) the thread focused upon the experience of an employee, I determined that this new thread needed to focus upon R&D at Cheesecake Factory which Time Magazine looks at in depth.

Just linking it in, since Ted wasn't able to find it!


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I'm not even American, but everytime I've visited (which is more or less once a year of not more often) and I've come across a Cheesecake Factory, its had ppl queuing for it. Recently, I have been in Baltimore a lot, and the branch in the Inner Harbour, at peak times, always has a queue. Theres one that just opened in Columbia Mall, right next to PF Changs and another chain whose name escapes me at present, and they are similarly slammed. Always.

I have eaten there, and from a tourist point of view, or ppl being out for the day point of view, I can see its appeal. Its not great (or dare I say, even good) food, but it covers most bases and presents reasonable value for money, in a clean-ish pleasant-ish environment (assuming you know what chain restaurants are like). If, however, ur put off by chain restaurants, then TCF may well represent the first few circles of hell for u...but at least they dont insist on any "flair" on the serving staff's uniforms!!!

Raj

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Its not great (or dare I say, even good) food, but it covers most bases and presents reasonable value for money, in a clean-ish pleasant-ish environment (assuming you know what chain restaurants are like).

which somewhat is in response to my query: Does it fulfill your dining hopes in its offerings of "melded cuisine"??

anyone else have opinions on my question? :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Not everyone can afford the $30 miso-glazed black cod made famous by Nobu, but the Cheesecake Factory's best-selling miso salmon is only $18 and three times the size.

Heh. And the one time I had the CF salmon, it was not really miso-glazed. In fact, if that was what I thought the dish was like, I would never want to get it again. It was this big old honking piece of salmon with maybe a bit of a miso taste to it. Maybe poor execution that day, but just a few lines down in that article they are talking about "consistency" versus "creativity."

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Not everyone can afford the $30 miso-glazed black cod made famous by Nobu, but the Cheesecake Factory's best-selling miso salmon is only $18 and three times the size.

Heh. And the one time I had the CF salmon, it was not really miso-glazed. In fact, if that was what I thought the dish was like, I would never want to get it again. It was this big old honking piece of salmon with maybe a bit of a miso taste to it. Maybe poor execution that day, but just a few lines down in that article they are talking about "consistency" versus "creativity."

I fail to understand why anyone needs a slab of salmon, unless you're splitting it, family-style.

I get the "cheaper, more widely-available version concept," but the giant portion concept? It eludes me.


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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well, maybe it's because i'm in the south, but many people seem to guage value by how many pounds of food are on a plate.

i even had an ex refused to order takeout from a traditional eat-in restaurant because he was convinced they packed less into the packaging then they gave you on the plate.

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well, maybe it's because i'm in the south, but many people seem to guage value by how many pounds of food are on a plate.

i even had an ex refused to order takeout from a traditional eat-in restaurant because he was convinced they packed less into the packaging then they gave you on the plate.

Talk about portion size, has anyone been to Maggiano's? That is the newest chain on the block in Nashville. The servings are ridiculous. They seem to take perverse pride in giving you a quantity of food that is impossible to finish. A side salad can feed 3-4 people. Same for entrees. Same for desserts. And I'm a carbo-loading fool who knows how to tuck it away. You hope that people are taking plenty of leftovers home. You hate to see that much food go to waste.


LPM - Nashville-Based Food Enthusiast

Personal Blog: Boston Dreams and Michelin Stars

lpm@wardandsmith.com

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Same thing here in Cleveland, we have 2 locations and they are consistently on one hour-plus waits. 

I think most of it is novelty and it being something new, like when we first got a CPK, which I think serves really mediocre pizza.  I talk to people that have eaten there and they all seem to say the same thing I did after I ate there - I don't get it, it's just ok, it wasn't anything fantastic. 

I think it just seems BIG!  FAMOUS!  to people in this part of the country.  I bet Friday's got the same reception when they first opened in these parts.

....

There is actually a Cheesecake Factory in downtown Palo Alto, CA (40 miles south of SF). I don't know if I've seen lines out the door there, but I think the restaurant has looked pretty busy inside when I've walked by. I walked in once to look at the cheesecake case but even the cheesecakes did not really tempt me... It may have been an incorrect impression, but they looked a little more overwrought and gooey than the type of cakes I like. Note: I've not had any of their cheesecakes so I can't comment on their taste.


Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Accutely aware of the size issues at Cheesecake Factory but how about the topic of the Time article:

Does it fulfill your dining hopes in its offerings of "melded cuisine"?? :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Accutely aware of the size issues at Cheesecake Factory but how about the topic of the Time article:

Does it fulfill your dining hopes in its offerings of "melded cuisine"?? :rolleyes:

It's interesting...I haven't been to Cheesecake Factory in more than five years (and even then I only went the once), but I have noticed the trend for Americanized ethnic food at restaurants that don't really sell themselves as ethnic. Sort of like the trend for chicken satay writ large.

I don't get it - especially since it's so much more expensive, usually, than the real thing. But maybe it's a convenience thing. If Mom likes Chinese flavors and the kids like Italian, and Dad wants a burger...cha-ching.


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Thank you, Megan Blocker, for answering the question posed by Time!

Sort of like the trend for chicken satay writ large

You are one perceptive individual ... as your comments clearly demonstrate!! :biggrin:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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GG, to try to give you my feeling on does this type of dining fullfill my dining hopes by creating a melded cuisine, no it does not.

If I want Italian, then I will seek out a restaurant that has an Italian emphasis.

If I want BBQ, then I am headed down to the closest place with a wood pit.

So no, Cheesecake Factory and other restaurants of their kind do not interest me. The rest of my family, who live in other regions, now they feel that they are getting a real dining experience by going to CCF. But their requirements of the food on the plate is totally different than mine. Where as I am interested in tastes and flavors and the food itself, they are thinking about how much they are getting for their dollar value. And it is big and it is busy so it must be good. Kind of like the old thing that my parents used to say that the food must be good at a big truckstops because truckers know the best places to eat.

But to go to a place that tries to be everything to everyone, that does not interest me. In the effort to fullfill all those requirements, the quality is sacrificed to put out obscene portions. It is similar to the fact that I do not go to major amusment parks because I get more fun creating my fun than having it programmed for me.

I feel that a person who is more interested in the food will probably be dissappointed in the Wal-mart concept of dining. But for the people who have other priorities, then that type of concept is for them. What are those people like, I don't really know. Most folks I hang out with are more the foodie type.

Another thing that CCF has going for it is name recognition. A lot of people are reluctant to try anyplace new unless they have heard about it from someone whose tastes they respect. And also the use of cheesecake in the name does not hurt their marketing efforts. A lot of people really like mediocre cheesecake, look at all the ready made cheesecakes that Sam's Clubs sell.

Is it good for educating people on new cuisines, could be, because nothing they do will offend most folks. Then again, if one never goes beyond that level, then they have no idea of the possiblilities of the taste profiles that exist beyond that point, and that is their loss. But would they be willing to go that extra step and try a place which is local and not a steakhouse, probably not so inclined.

So, for me, CCF does not fullfill my needs. Does it fullfill for others, apparently. Why, beats the _____ out of me.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Does it fulfill your dining hopes in its offerings of "melded cuisine"?? :rolleyes:

When I have gone to the Cheesecake Factory, it was not in hopes of "melded cuisine". The two times I have eaten there it was because it was convenient and had a menu extensive enough to meet all dietary requirements of the group involved.

As others have said, their menu struck me as follow the trend and make it palatable to the vast majority of non-adventurous diners. And give them plenty of it. I can't remember anything on the menu that would have been a new dish or taste sensation for me. If I recall correctly, the food was quite pleasant but not exceptional (and having had bad food before, I can be happy with that!).

I can't imagine people go to The Cheesecake Factory looking for authenticity. They go looking for food that tastes good to them, and the chain seems to be doing a bang up job providing it.

Me, I go for the Godiva Cheesecake :biggrin:.

Marcia.


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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it's pretty fun to read some of the posts in this thread. I don't know if you just always eat out by yourself, really embrace the idea of food snobbery, or maybe some mix of both.

Does CF meet my hopes of a melded cuisine? Well, that's a somewhat loaded question, presupposing a goal of wanting a melded cuisine as a good thing. why don't you state your opinion? you seem unhappy that nobody is replying to your question...give them something to reply to.

I think CF works for what it is - a place where anyone can find something to eat. It certainly meets CF's goals based on the lines out the door. LPM was being generous with his 60 minute comment at the Green Hills location. It's usually 90 minutes and can get up to 3 hours on Friday and Saturday night. Likewise, Maggiano's hovers in the 2+ hour wait on weekends. because of this, i have not gone to this maggiano's yet, and have only been to cheesecake factory once or twice (usually when it was an off-peak time or i had shopping to do). i won't wait 3 hours to eat ANYWHERE, be it CF or el bulli.

Why are people waiting this long? Well, it's certainly not because they think it is akin to a "walmart" as someone put it. I think it's quite the opposite. Places like applebees and ruby tuesday's are the bottom rung of chain dining. Macaroni Grill is probably in the middle rung, and PF Chang's, Maggiano's and CF occupy the upper echelon. It's visible in the exterior and interior of the buildings themselves, the service, the menus, etc. hell, the service at pfc and cf can be better than a lot of the independent restaurants *cough* bound'ry *cough.* For what you get, the prices are more than reasonable. Like the Time article said, not everyone can have fine dining all that often. it seems like everyone walks out with a leftover box. i say good for them if they can get a sandwich for 10 bucks that is reasonably good to very good and will cover two meals, score! Will you be having the most authentic pad thai or cajun food? No, so what? It's not like if I go down the road to Patrick's (a New Orleans/Cajun place), the quality will be exponentially better. Plus, there are always groups of 4 or more dining at CF - for the very reason that everyone can find something. What is so GD wrong with that? the menu is something like 20 pages long. surely there is one thing that some of you would find acceptable. then again, i probably would not be surprised if someone had a problem with their nachos for being too safe...becasue nachos are such an inherently exotic food. *rolls eyes*

that's great that you go to the italian place when you want some pasta. what would you do with a party of six? take your ball and go home because you don't get your way? maybe be a pain in arse and just whine until everyone else caves? CF is the ultimate compromise place. more importantly, they actually have some things you simply cannot get at other establishments. here's a prime example - the buffalo wonton. i ask you to find me another restaurant in nashville that makes it. i bet you can't...because i have never found one. guess what? it's actually good! fancy that. and their cheesecake...is it the best? no, probably not...but who is to say? some people like real creamy cheesecake while others like it a little more "sharp." i'm perfectly happy with the oreo cheesecake there...it rivals that of bronte, another green hills restaurant. as an added bonus, it's about the same price but you get more. well, that's good for my appetite and horrible for my waistline...but such is life.

tryska, the story about your ex is funny. he should never eat at some of the places here. i am positive that the chips and queso to go order from casa fiesta is only about 2/3rds of what the dine in version is. oh, and what cf are you seeing long waits at? i've found that the perimeter mall location isn't as bad as the buckhead one.

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