- 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.
My photos don’t convey the scale – the building itself is absolutely massive, with a huge, full parking lot next to it.
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.
To-go orders grew during the last year and a half, and other casual chains have also gotten in on the trend.
Cheesecake Factory also had a recently paved path added for delivery drivers to enter through the side door and pick up orders.
The outdoor seating was all in use, thanks to an unseasonably warm October.
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.
Even the menu, posted outside, meets this description.
On the inside, the doors are framed by two large columns.
They’re impossible to ignore, and immediately let you know what to expect from this restaurant.
The columns are “Egyptian style,” inspired by designs the founder saw in a London bathhouse.
The tops of the columns are inspired by palm trees, with palm fronds.
Other columns have different designs, with carved faces near the top.
Floors are French limestone, according to the designer.
The rest of the restaurant looks like a complement to the columns. There are ceiling beams, dark wood, and hanging, warm-toned lights.
The bakery with the namesake cheesecake is one of the first things you see after entering.
A glass display case shows off some of the many, many varieties the restaurant has.
More individual slices are in a refrigerator behind the counter.
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.
We weren’t the only ones waiting. Several other groups sat on benches in the entryway and right outside the door.
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.
While we waited, I gladly took the opportunity to look around the restaurant and take in the busy, opulent decor.
Everything was big and decorated in something that feels like Renaissance art meets Egyptian motifs, even the light fixture over the entrance.
I was most struck by how massive the interior was. Rows and rows of tables seemed to go on endlessly, all full of customers.
The restaurant is mostly dark inside, which makes all the giant lights pop even more.
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.
We were seated after about 30 minutes and given menus that looked more like small books.
The menu is absolutely gigantic and starts with a full-page introduction to the chain.
I didn’t count because it would have taken all night, but there were easily hundreds of options on the menu.
There are two full pages just of appetizers, plus another page of small plates.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s another smaller menu insert of “Skinnylicious,” low calories dishes.
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.
We started with drinks, a pineapple Moscow mule. It came with a generous slice of pineapple, which I loved.
Next up, the waitress brought over two types of bread.
It was delicious, but I’ve learned through my chain dining adventures to pace myself on the bread because portions tend to be large.
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.
They didn’t disappoint, with a creamy gooey inside and crunchy fried breading over marinara sauce.
But, at $US13 ($AU18) for an order of four, they’re quite pricey.
Service was slow, presumably because of how busy the restaurant was.
My fiance Joe got a hamburger, known as a Glamburger at The Cheesecake Factory.
He said it was good, covered in a yummy cheese sauce that burst out the sides when he took a bite.
The burger was quite large, a decent deal for $US16 ($AU22).
It also came with a hefty serving of fries, which we split.
I ordered the Cajun jambalaya pasta, which contained chicken, shrimp, and vegetables over linguine.
The shrimp was great, but the sauce wasn’t as spicy as promised.
It tasted good, though I couldn’t help but think of what other things I wished I’d ordered instead.
The portion was huge though, which I appreciated for leftovers.
The fries were probably the best part of the meal, which I wasn’t expecting.
The check came out to $US69.50 ($AU94) before tip, which I thought was a bit expensive for what we got.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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