I visited The Cheesecake Factory for the first time to see why sales are skyrocketing, and I was disappointed by mediocre food at high prices

Cheesecake factory exterior
  • I visited a Cheesecake Factory location in Rochester, New York to see why it’s so popular.
  • I was excited about the extensive menu, but most of the dishes were just okay at best.
  • I was underwhelmed, but Cheesecake Factory is doing something right for booming sales.

I’ve never been to The Cheesecake Factory before, but sales are booming and I wanted to see why, so I went to a location near Rochester, New York.
Cheesecake factory exterior
The Cheesecake Factory in Rochester, NY. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
My photos don’t convey the scale – the building itself is absolutely massive, with a huge, full parking lot next to it.
Cheesecake factory parking lot
The parking lot was packed. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
About 10 of the spots closest to the entrance were reserved for picking up to-go orders. They were almost the only open spots in the entire parking lot.
Cheesecake factory to-go pickup
To-go pickup area. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
To-go orders grew during the last year and a half, and other casual chains have also gotten in on the trend.
Cheesecake factory to-go pickup
To-go pickup area. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Cheesecake Factory also had a recently paved path added for delivery drivers to enter through the side door and pick up orders.
Cheesecake factory DoorDash path
The path for delivery drivers. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The outdoor seating was all in use, thanks to an unseasonably warm October.
Cheesecake factory outdoor seating
Outdoor seating area. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The front door of The Cheesecake Factory is huge and ornate. It immediately communicated everything I needed to know about the chain – it’s unnecessarily large, a weird mishmash of different styles, but somehow appealing.
Cheesecake Factory entry
Cheesecake Factory entry way. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Even the menu, posted outside, meets this description.
Cheesecake Factory menu
Menu on display. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
On the inside, the doors are framed by two large columns.
Cheesecake Factory doors
Giant doors and columns. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
They’re impossible to ignore, and immediately let you know what to expect from this restaurant.
Cheesecake Factory columns
The columns and decor are impossible to ignore. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The columns are “Egyptian style,” inspired by designs the founder saw in a London bathhouse.
Cheesecake Factory columns
The columns and decor are impossible to ignore. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Source: Eater
The tops of the columns are inspired by palm trees, with palm fronds.
Cheesecake Factory columns
The columns and decor are impossible to ignore. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Other columns have different designs, with carved faces near the top.
Cheesecake Factory
Column. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Floors are French limestone, according to the designer.
Cheesecake Factory floor tiles
Tiles. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The rest of the restaurant looks like a complement to the columns. There are ceiling beams, dark wood, and hanging, warm-toned lights.
Cheesecake factory interior
Cheesecake Factory interior. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The bakery with the namesake cheesecake is one of the first things you see after entering.
Cheesecake factory bakery section
Bakery section. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
A glass display case shows off some of the many, many varieties the restaurant has.
Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes
The cheesecakes. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
More individual slices are in a refrigerator behind the counter.
Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes
The famous cheesecakes. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Past the bakery, we finally got to the host stand, where we learned it would be a 20 to 30-minute wait for a table, though it was a Monday night.
Cheesecake Factory hostess stand
Hostess stand. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
We weren’t the only ones waiting. Several other groups sat on benches in the entryway and right outside the door.
Cheesecake Factory waiting area
Benches to wait for a table. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Hardly anyone was wearing masks besides a few servers, and there was a sign on the hostess stand explaining the restaurant’s air filtration system.
Cheesecake Factory air filtration
Air filtration system explanation. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
While we waited, I gladly took the opportunity to look around the restaurant and take in the busy, opulent decor.
Cheesecake Factory interior
The interior is massive. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Everything was big and decorated in something that feels like Renaissance art meets Egyptian motifs, even the light fixture over the entrance.
Cheesecake Factory
An extremely ornate light fixture. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
I was most struck by how massive the interior was. Rows and rows of tables seemed to go on endlessly, all full of customers.
Cheesecake Factory
The booths just keep going. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The restaurant is mostly dark inside, which makes all the giant lights pop even more.
Cheesecake Factory lights
Cheesecake Factory interior. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
All of the other decor has to be similarly large to match the scale of columns and high ceilings, like planters with trees and extremely tall booths.
Cheesecake Factory interior
Cheesecake Factory plants. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
We were seated after about 30 minutes and given menus that looked more like small books.
Cheesecake Factory menus
Menus. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The menu is absolutely gigantic and starts with a full-page introduction to the chain.
Cheesecake Factory menu
The massive menu. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
I didn’t count because it would have taken all night, but there were easily hundreds of options on the menu.
Cheesecake Factory menu
Joe reading the menu like a book. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
There are two full pages just of appetizers, plus another page of small plates.
Cheesecake Factory menu
The massive menu. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s another smaller menu insert of “Skinnylicious,” low calories dishes.
Cheesecake Factory menu
The massive menu. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The gigantic menu is especially striking in comparison to chains I recently visited, like Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse, that used the pandemic as an opportunity to streamline menus with fewer options.
Cheesecake Factory menu
The massive menu. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Source: Insider, Insider
We started with drinks, a pineapple Moscow mule. It came with a generous slice of pineapple, which I loved.
Cheesecake Factory cocktail
Cocktail. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Next up, the waitress brought over two types of bread.
Cheesecake Factory bread
Two kinds of bed. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
It was delicious, but I’ve learned through my chain dining adventures to pace myself on the bread because portions tend to be large.
Cheesecake Factory bread
Bread and butter. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
I knew before we even arrived that I wanted to try the fried mac and cheese balls, which I’ve heard multiple friends rave about. The server told me they’re very popular with DoorDash and Uber Eats orders.
Cheesecake Factory fried mac and cheese
Fried mac and cheese. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
They didn’t disappoint, with a creamy gooey inside and crunchy fried breading over marinara sauce.
Cheesecake Factory fried mac and cheese
Fried macaroni and cheese. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
But, at $US13 ($AU18) for an order of four, they’re quite pricey.
Cheesecake Factory fried mac and cheese
Fried mac and cheese. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Service was slow, presumably because of how busy the restaurant was.
Cheesecake Factory burger
Hamburger meal. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
My fiance Joe got a hamburger, known as a Glamburger at The Cheesecake Factory.
Cheesecake Factory burger
Hamburger. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
He said it was good, covered in a yummy cheese sauce that burst out the sides when he took a bite.
Cheesecake Factory burger
Cheese from the burger. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The burger was quite large, a decent deal for $US16 ($AU22).
Cheesecake Factory burger
Glambuger. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
It also came with a hefty serving of fries, which we split.
Cheesecake Factory fries
French fries. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
I ordered the Cajun jambalaya pasta, which contained chicken, shrimp, and vegetables over linguine.
Cheesecake Factory pasta
Cajun Jambalaya pasta. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The shrimp was great, but the sauce wasn’t as spicy as promised.
Cheesecake Factory shrimp
Shrimp. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
It tasted good, though I couldn’t help but think of what other things I wished I’d ordered instead.
Cheesecake Factory pasta
Linguine. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The portion was huge though, which I appreciated for leftovers.
Cheesecake Factory pasta
Cajun Jambalaya pasta. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The fries were probably the best part of the meal, which I wasn’t expecting.
Cheesecake Factory french fries
Fries and ketchup. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
The check came out to $US69.50 ($AU94) before tip, which I thought was a bit expensive for what we got.
Cheesecake Factory receipt
Receipt. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
I see the appeal of The Cheesecake Factory after my first visit. It’s extravagant, and large, and options feel endless for different types of cuisines.
Cheesecake Factory pasta
Pasta entree. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Unfortunately, those aspects are also Cheesecake Factory’s weaknesses. It’s trying to do too much, instead of doing a few types of food well. There are hundreds of options, but at least the ones we tried were just okay.
Cheesecake Factory burger
Hamburger toppings. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
If I’m craving pasta, I’d rather go to Olive Garden, and if I’m craving a burger or steak, I’d pick Texas Roadhouse. Cheesecake Factory has the options, but none of them seem to be the best.
Cheesecake Factory burger
Glamburger. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
Sales are up 150% over 2020, and nearly 10% over 2019. Even though I thought it was mediocre, clearly Cheesecake Factory is doing something right.
Cheesecake Factory finished plate
The plate when we were done. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider
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