The Reason Why the Cheesecake Factory’s Menu Is So Big

iStock/LPETTET
iStock/LPETTET

Some of our most cherished people, places, and things are turning 40 this year: Garfield, Dallas, and Space Invaders among them. Joining these beloved pieces of Americana in celebrating 40 years on the planet is The Cheesecake Factory—that delicious ode to dairy-based desserts that you’ve likely eaten at with your parents. And if there’s one thing you remember about the experience, aside from the massive amount of cheesecake on display, it's the size of The Cheesecake Factory’s menu. And by size we mean both its physical size as well as its breadth of offerings.

The restaurant’s 21-page menu lists more than 250 made-from-scratch items (85 of them chicken dishes) and clocks in at a whopping 5940 words, which is roughly a third of the length of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Pulling a muscle to lift the menu wouldn’t be totally out of the question. And while cheesecake may be the main attraction, the food offerings span the globe for their culinary inspirations. Thai lettuce wraps sit right alongside stuffed tortillas, chicken and biscuits, and Vietnamese shrimp summer rolls. There’s pizza, too. And salads and sandwiches. And dozens of varieties of cheesecake.

"At first, we really just wanted a menu that lived around the cheesecakes," The Cheesecake Factory founder/chairman/CEO David Marshall Overton told Thrillist earlier this year. "I wasn't a chef, I had no experience in the restaurant business either, and I didn't want any chef we hired to walk out on me. So, I made sure that everything we served, was something I could make myself."

Overton soon realized he had a knack for cooking. As he began to experiment with new and more complex recipes, he added them to the menu and it kept growing. And growing. And growing.

"When I ate at other restaurants during this time, I was able to take some of the more complex recipes, more expensive dishes, and bring them down to casual dining," he told Thrillist. "I'd work on new menu items with a cook, behind the line. And as we kept expanding the menu, people kept responding positively.”

Overton’s marketing strategy was basically: the more dishes, the better. If a couple was headed out to dinner and one person was craving Italian while the other wanted Mexican, they could both happily satisfy their appetites at The Cheesecake Factory. But in those early days, The Cheesecake Factory was just a one-location operation in Beverly Hills, California.

"I probably should have kept the menu slimmer,” Overton admitted. "If I knew then what I know today … I had no idea we would become a chain, and would have to recreate this menu dozens of times. We put anything we wanted to on the menu. Every June and December we added new items. And we tried to stay current, adding any food items that happened to be trending at the time, and tried to keep pace with what America wanted."

When it came time to expand, it was too late to scale things back: the legendarily large menu was a main selling point for dining out at The Cheesecake Factory. And 40 years later, it still is.

In Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth, a popular guide detailing how some of the world’s best-known brands have engendered customer loyalty, Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin wrote extensively about how important The Cheesecake Factory’s back-breaking menu is to its success:

"You might think [it’s] too long, but for The Cheesecake Factory, it's just right. Why? Because the vastness of the restaurant's menu is so unusual that it compels conversation among its patrons. Menu breadth is its secret customer-acquisition weapon—it hides in plain sight, in the hands of each and every diner.

The menu at The Cheesecake Factory is a talk trigger: a built-in differentiator that creates customer conversations.

Every day consumers comment on the remarkable menu variety with a combination of bewilderment, awe, and frustration."

Even if you’ve never eaten at The Cheesecake Factory, you’ve likely heard tell of its menu—and that’s precisely the point.

"The Cheesecake Factory doesn't have to buy awareness because its menu is remarkable enough to compel patrons to tell their friends, which in turn creates new customers,” Baer and Lemin wrote. "When you commit to a talk trigger like The Cheesecake Factory menu, that difference creates conversation that clones your customers, bringing you new revenue for free." Even if you do need to strength-train to lift it.

3 Delicious Mac and Cheese Dishes You Need to Try

A mac and cheese burger
A mac and cheese burger
Mental Floss Video

Is there a more comforting comfort food than macaroni and cheese? If you love mac and cheese—and wish you could include it in every meal—these recipes are for you. Chef Frank Proto, Director of Culinary Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, has cooked up three creative recipes that use macaroni and cheese as their main ingredient. For a cheesier cookout, try Chef Frank’s fried mac and cheese burger buns; for more upscale dinners, try the mac and cheese stuffed peppers; and for a perfect party appetizer, we recommend the bacon-wrapped mac and cheese. These recipes transform the classic comfort food in surprising ways—and they’re perfect for revitalizing leftover mac and cheese.

Chef Frank's Classic Mac & Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

1 Box Elbow Pasta
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
3-4 tablespoons flour
4-5 cups milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound American cheese
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook elbow pasta to desired doneness.
  2. Heat butter in a sauce pot over medium heat.  Add the flour until you get a wet sand consistency. 
  3. Cook over low for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. 
  4. Add the milk and the garlic and let come to a simmer. 
  5. Lower the heart and let cook for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add the both cheeses and whisk until combined.
  7. Add the cooked pasta and coat well. 

Mac & Cheese Burger Buns Recipe

Ingredients:

Macaroni and Cheese
2 Eggs
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
Burger Patty
Lettuce
Tomatoes
Condiments (ketchup or mustard)
Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

  1. Refrigerate mac & cheese for two hours.
  2. Use a ramekin or a cup to cut out burger bun shape.
  3. Add flour, egg (beaten), and breadcrumbs to separate bowls.
  4. Dip mac and cheese buns in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs consecutively, covering on both sides.
  5. Turn stove on medium high heat and add oil to pan.
  6. Fry mac and cheese buns until golden brown on both sides (about 30 seconds to a minute).
  7. In a separate pan on medium high heat, grill burger patty until it reaches desired doneness.
  8. Build your burger: Add burger patty, lettuce, tomatoes, and your favorite condiments to your mac and cheese burger patties, then dig in!

Bacon-Wrapped Mac and Cheese Recipe

Bacon wrapped macaroni and cheese.

Ingredients:

Macaroni and Cheese
Bacon
Bread Crumbs

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a pan with oil, cook bacon until cooked through but not yet crisp.
  3. Grab a muffin or cupcake tin. Line tin with bacon, using one piece per cup.
  4. Pour mac & cheese into tin.
  5. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
  6. Bake bacon-wrapped mac & cheese in oven for 10-15 minutes or until bacon is crispy.
  7. Let bacon-wrapped mac & cheese cool before removing from tin.
  8. Carefully remove each piece of bacon-wrapped mac & cheese from tin, using a knife to separate any stuck edges.

Mac and Cheese Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Macaroni and cheese stuffed peppers.

Ingredients:

Macaroni and Cheese
Cooked chorizo
3 Bell Peppers
Bread Crumbs
Shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Add cooked chorizo to macaroni and cheese, stirring in with sauce.
  3. Cut tops off of bell peppers and remove seeds.
  4. If bell peppers cannot stand upright on their own, slice bottom to level.
  5. Pour macaroni and cheese into bell peppers.
  6. Top with bread crumbs and shredded cheese.
  7. Place on baking sheet and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes until peppers are soft.
Kw1luQy3

Cheese Made from Celebrities' Microbes Is On View at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum

iStock/bhofack2
iStock/bhofack2

London's Victoria & Albert Museum is home to such artifacts as ancient Chinese ceramics, notebooks belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexander McQueen's evening dresses—all objects you might expect to see in a world-famous museum. However, the cultural significance of the selection of cheeses now on display at the museum is less obvious. The edible items, part of a new exhibition called FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, were cultured from human bacteria swabbed from celebrities.

Though most diners may prefer not to think about it, bacteria is an essential ingredient in many popular foods. Beer, bread, chocolate, and cheese all depend on microbes for their signature flavors. Scientists took this ick factor one step further by sourcing bacteria from the human body to make cheese for the new exhibit.

Smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist/artist Christina Agapakis first conceived their human bacteria cheese project, titled Selfmade, in 2013. When a chef and team of scientists recreated it for the Victoria & Albert Museum, they found famous figures to donate their germs. Blur bassist Alex James, chef Heston Blumenthal, rapper Professor Green, Madness frontman Suggs, and The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh all signed up for the project.

A display of the human-microbe cheese at Victoria & Albert museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Once the celebrities' noses, armpits, and belly buttons were swabbed, their microbiome samples were used to separate milk into curds and whey. The curds were then pressed into a variety of cheeses: James's swab was used to make Cheshire cheese; Blumenthal's, comté; Professor Green's, mozzarella; Suggs's, cheddar; Tandoh's, stilton.

The cheeses are being sequenced in the lab to determine if they're safe for human consumption. But even if they don't contain any harmful bacteria, they won't be served on anyone's cheese plates. Instead. they're being kept in a refrigerated display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Museum-goers can catch the cheeses and the rest of the items spotlighted in FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate from now through October 20, 2019.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER