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The Cheesecake Factory has embraced being 'one of the most horrible-looking places around' --  and it's a brilliant tactic

  • Twitter users are calling The Cheesecake Factory a “postmodern design hellscape.”
  • The man who created the design admits it sounds like “one of the most horrible-looking places around.”
  • The Cheesecake Factory’s absurd design has actually helped it to survive the downward spiral of casual dining chains like Chilli’s and TGI Fridays.

The Cheesecake Factory’s unique design is blowing people’s minds — and there’s a business reason for its absurdity.

“If you want a fully immersive ‘postmodern design hellscape’ themed dining experience I highly recommend dinner at The Cheesecake Factory,” Max Krieger posted on Twitter on Thursday. “[F]rom a design perspective that place is f—in wild and I’ll talk a little bit about why.”

Krieger followed up with tweets highlighting the Cheesecake Factory’s garish exterior:

Its chaotic design:

And, of course, the chain’s monstrously long menu:

The entire thread is great. You can — and should — read it here.

Krieger musings on The Cheesecake Factory’s place in American capitalism lead us to wonder if all of the absurdities are the chain were actually paying off in sales.

The restaurant industry, especially sit-down casual dining chains like The Cheesecake Factory, haven’t been doing great recently. While The Cheesecake Factory has outperformed the rest of the industry over the past few years, in November the company reported same-stores sales dropped 2.3% in the most recent quarter.

However, while chains like Chilli’s and TGI Fridays have struggled to escape what executives call the “sea of sameness,” The Cheesecake Factory has set itself apart in the very things that Krieger finds most baffling about the chain.

In a presentation for investors in September, the chain highlighted its super-sized menu, with 250 menu items, as a competitive advantage. “Ambiance” is apparently another major sales driver, with executives saying that “dining with us is an experience.”

“You can’t knock their success,” Rick McCormack, a restaurant and hospitality designer who created the chain’s iconic design, told Eater. “We used to say if you build it, they will come, because time after time, we’d open in a new city, and from the first day on, people would just be lining up. There’s something magical about that concept.”

Still, McCormack is aware of how bizarre the design sounds, telling Eater: “If I try to describe to you what it looks like, you’d probably think it was one of the most horrible-looking places around.”

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