10 Gourmet Facts About the Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory has never been known as a restaurant to skimp on the size of its menu or the size of its portions. Enjoy this full menu of facts about the Calabasas Hills-based restaurant chain while contemplating which variety of cheesecake will be your next slice.

1. THE ORIGINAL RECIPE FOR THE FIRST CHEESECAKE WAS PRINTED IN THE NEWSPAPER.

Housewife Evelyn Overton of Detroit was searching for a recipe for the dessert when she found one in her local paper. Her cheesecake earned such rave reviews with family and friends that she began making them in her basement and selling them to local restaurants.

2. THE OVERTONS HEADED WEST TO START THEIR BUSINESS.

After her two children were grown, Evelyn and her husband moved to Los Angeles and put all their savings into a bakery called The Cheesecake Factory Bakery. Evelyn’s desserts were soon being sold throughout the city and the selection grew to more than 20 varieties.

3. EVELYN'S SON, DAVID, STILL SERVES AS THE COMPANY'S CEO.

Before becoming a cheesecake mogul, David played drums professionally and used his musical talents to help pay for his tuition at Wayne State University in Detroit. When he saw that his parents needed help selling their cheesecakes, he retired his drumsticks and opened the first full-menu location of the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills in 1978.

4. CUSTOMERS CAME FOR THE CHEESECAKE AND STAYED FOR THE ENTREES.

According to David, the desserts were always meant to be the focal point of the restaurant’s menu (hence the name), and he describes his mom’s dessert as “the Cadillac of cheesecakes.” When the full restaurant opened, customers waited in line, even on the first day, for a slice. "I wanted to prove to other restaurateurs that people would enjoy a restaurant with a large dessert menu," he told the Los Angeles Times.

5. THE OVERTONS ALSO OWN TWO OTHER RESTAURANT CONCEPTS.

Grand Lux Cafe is David Overton's take on the classic European cafe, and RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen is the result of a partnership between Overton and Singapore-raised chef Mohan Ismail. In total, there are 12 Grand Lux Cafes and one RockSugar restaurant, located in L.A.

6. ALL OF THE CHEESECAKES SOLD ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE MADE IN TWO BAKERIES. 

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There are 186 Cheesecake Factory locations across the country, but facilities in Calabasas Hills, California and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, are responsible for baking the 50 types of cheesecake the restaurant serves, which include salted caramel, peanut butter cup fudge ripple, lemon raspberry cream, and the one that started it all.

7. IF YOU CAN'T MAKE IT TO A RESTAURANT, YOU CAN ALWAYS SHIP A CHEESECAKE TO YOURSELF.

In partnership with direct-mail gourmet gift gurus Harry & David, 21 flavors of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake are available to deliver directly to your door. Some varieties start at $49.99, which isn't too bad if you want to really impress some company with your sudden baking prowess. For those who need cheesecake more regularly in their life, there is also the Cheesecake of the Month club.

8. OVERTON DOESN'T CARE HOW LARGE THE MENU IS, AS LONG AS IT'S ALL THINGS THE CUSTOMER LIKES.

"We have always said that whatever America wants to eat can go on the Cheesecake Factory menu," Overton has said. The current tally of the number of food items available at any Cheesecake Factory sits at around 250, and all menu options have gone directly through Overton. "My taste buds represent that of the regular people we have dining at our restaurants," he said in 2012. "If I love the food, it goes in the menu." And while the food isn’t necessarily known for being low in calories or fat, 90 million customers found it delicious enough to earn the company $1.9 billion in 2014.

9. ITS EMPLOYEES ARE NOT JUST FANS OF THE RESTAURANT'S DESSERTS, BUT THE COMPANY ITSELF AS WELL.

A corporate health plan that is available to all employees and their immediate families, as well as three-week paid sabbaticals for every five years of service at the corporate level led the Cheesecake Factory to be included on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in both 2014 and 2015.

10. A WEEKLY $5000 TAB AT THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT LED TO BANKRUPTCY FOR A FORMER NFL PLAYER.

When Vince Young’s lawyer revealed that the former quarterback for the Tennessee Titans was close to broke (after earning $26 million in six years) in 2012, a Nashville radio show found that a large portion of his income had gone to covering outrageous tabs at chain restaurants. Young is said to have treated seven or eight of his teammates to dinner at the Factory multiple times a week—but still, $5000 is a lot of slices of cheesecake.

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The Popcorn Company That's Creating Jobs for Adults With Autism
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A New Jersey-based gourmet popcorn company is dedicating its profits to creating new employment “popportunities” for adults on the autism spectrum, A Plus reports.

Popcorn for the People, founded by Rutgers University professor Dr. Barbie Zimmerman-Bier and her husband, radiologist Dr. Steven Bier, is a nonprofit subsidiary of the couple's charitable organization Let’s Work For Good, which focuses on "creating meaningful and lasting employment for adults with autism and developmental disabilities." Recognizing the lack of skilled employment options for adults with developmental disabilities, the Biers decided to create jobs themselves through this popcorn venture, with all of the profits going to their charitable organization. According to the site, every tin of popcorn purchased "provides at least an hour of meaningful employment" to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, who perform jobs like making popcorn, labeling products, and marketing.

The couple developed the idea for the business and the nonprofit in 2015 when their son, Sam, grew tired of his job at a grocery store. Sam, 27, is on the autism spectrum, and after six years of working as a “cart guy,” he decided he was ready to try something new. Employment opportunities were scarce, though. Jobs that provided enough resources for someone on the spectrum tended to consist of menial work, and more skilled positions involved a tough interview process.

“Some companies mean well, but they are limited in what they can offer,” Steven Bier told TAP Into East Brunswick in 2015.

Unemployment rates are especially high among adults with autism. Last year, Drexel University reported that only 14 percent of autistic adults who use state-funded disability services are employed in paid work positions. And while high-functioning autistic adults are often perfectly capable of working in technical careers, the actual process of getting hired can be challenging. People with autism tend to struggle with understanding nuance and social conventions, which makes the interviewing process particularly difficult.

Enter the Biers' popcorn business. What began in 2015 as the Pop-In Cafe (which still sells popcorn and deli items at its New Jersey location) now distributes flavored popcorn all over the world. In three years, the organization has gone from a staff of four, with one employee on the autism spectrum, to a staff of 50, nearly half of whom are on the spectrum. In July, the organization plans to expand to a larger production facility in order to keep up with demand.

The company provides an environment for employees to learn both hard skills, like food preparation and money management, and what the company describes as “watercooler life skills.”

"There just aren't many programs that teach these sorts of things in a real-world environment, with all that entails," Bier told My Central Jersey. "These are skills that the kids can use here, and elsewhere."

According to A Plus, you can now buy Popcorn for the People in person at locations like the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and the Lyric Theatre in Times Square. The organization sells 12 flavors of popcorn (including cookies and cream, Buffalo wing, and French toast), all created by Agnes Cushing-Ruby, a chef who donates 40 hours a week to the company.

“I never thought that the little pop-up shop would grow into this,” Sam told A Plus. “It makes me so happy to see we have helped so many people.”

[h/t A Plus]

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10 Strange Publicity Stunts by Major Food Brands
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Celebrities have always loved doing crazy things for press—but these days, even corporations will go to extreme lengths to get the word out about their products. Case in point: IHOP's recent attempt to create a little mystery, and sell some burgers, as IHOb. Below you’ll find 10 of the weirdest stunts done to promote mass-produced food items.

1. COLONEL SANDERS RAPPELS DOWN A HIGH-RISE

It’s hard to imagine KFC’s elderly Colonel Sanders doing much outside of eating and talking about his “finger lickin’ good” fried chicken. But in 2011, a man dressed as the Colonel strapped on a harness and rappelled down Chicago’s River Bend building. The Colonel didn't stop at rappelling down the 40-story building; he also handed out $5 everyday meals to window washers. What was KFC’s concept behind this dangerous promotion? They wanted to show the world they were taking lunch to “new heights.”

2. THE WORLD'S LARGEST POPSICLE

Sometimes being the biggest doesn’t mean you’re the best. In 2005, Snapple wanted to make the world’s largest Popsicle to promote their new line of frozen treats. Their plan was to display a 25-foot-tall, 17.5-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice in New York City’s Union Square. However, their plan ended in a sticky disaster. The day Snapple tried to present the Popsicle, New York was experiencing warmer than expected temperatures. The pop melted so quickly that a river of sticky sludge took over several streets. In a city already congested by traffic and tourists, this made Snapple enemy No. 1 that day to the people of New York City.

3. COFFEE CUPS ON CAR ROOFS = FREE COUPONS

A cup of Starbucks coffee
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Starbucks believes in rewarding those who embrace the holiday spirit. In 2005, the Seattle-based coffee giant developed a campaign by which brand ambassadors drove around with replicas of Vente Starbucks cups affixed to their car roofs. If anyone stopped the ambassador to warn them about the coffee cup on their roof, that person received a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Starbucks wanted the world to know being a good samaritan really can pay!

4. MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Imagine walking the beach and finding a sealed bottle of Guinness. But instead of finding beer inside, you find a note from King Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. In 1959, that happened to people along North America’s Atlantic coast. Guinness wanted to build brand awareness in the area, so they dropped 150,000 sealed Guinness bottles into the ocean. The bottle contained Neptune’s scroll announcing the House of Guinness’s Bi-Centenary as well as a document instructing the reader on how to make a Guinness bottle into a table lamp. While no one got a free beer (boo!), they did walk away with an arts and crafts project.

5. EAU DE FLAME-BROILED

Who can resist the smell of flame-broiled burgers? The answer is most people—at least when it comes in the form of a body spray. Burger King’s 2008 campaign promoting the “scent of seduction” may be one of the weirdest ideas on this list. The fast-food company thought they could capture the world’s attention by creating and advertising a meat-scented cologne called FLAME by BK. Though select New York City stores actually sold the scent, all of this was a tongue-in-cheek campaign to make the 18- to 35-year-old male demographic laugh.

6. HERE COMES THE SUN

London commuters experienced an unexpectedly bright morning during January 2012. Tropicana worked with the art collective Greyworld to create a fake sun promoting their “Brighter Morning” campaign. The "sun," made up of more than 60,000 light bulbs, rose over Trafalgar Square at 6:51 a.m. on a particularly chilly morning. The sun set at 7:33 p.m. Tropicana continued to promote their sun day, fun day by having Londoners sit under the sun with branded sunglasses, deck chairs, and blankets. 

7. AIRPORT STEAK DELIVERY

Some of the craziest publicity stunts can’t be planned. We live in a world of 24/7 social media, and when the Twitterverse gave Morton’s Steakhouse an opportunity, they seized upon it. Before flying from Tampa to Newark, Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur and author, jokingly tweeted at Morton's Steakhouse that he wanted a porterhouse steak to be waiting for him when he landed. As Shankman was a frequent diner and social media influencer, Morton's Steakhouse saw the opportunity to start a conversation—and they went for it: When Shankman touched down in Newark, he was greeted by his car service driver and a Morton’s deliveryman. If only all travelers could experience that happiness in an airport.

8. BUYING THE LIBERTY BELL

April Fools Day gags can be great for brands … or an embarrassment. In 1996, Taco Bell took out an ad in The New York Times saying they bought Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. The ad also informed people of the bell’s new name: "Taco Liberty Bell." Back in the mid-1990s, people couldn’t go on Twitter or Facebook to find out the truth. Instead, they wrote the publication voicing their outrage. The hoax may have worked in getting press coverage (650 print publications and 400 broadcast media outlets publicized the joke), but what does that say about your brand when people actually believe you would rename a historic monument for your own gain?

9. CREATING THE LARGEST MAN-MADE FIRE


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In 2011, the Costa-Mesa based chain El Pollo Loco sent out press releases saying they planned to create the world’s largest man-made fire. Why would they create a fire? El Pollo Loco needed to get the word out about their new flame-grilled chicken. Spectators attending the event were shocked to see that this stunt was actually a commercial shoot for the brand. The chain says they really did attempt to break the record. But many publications have stated the whole promotion was a fraud. Note to brands: When trying to pull off a publicity stunt and a commercial simultaneously, tell everyone your plan in advance.

10. KFC IN SPACE

KFC may just be the king of wild publicity stunts. In 2006, the company created an 87,500-square-foot logo at Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada. The company wanted to be the first brand visible from space. And it was no coincidence they picked a spot near “The World’s Only Extraterrestrial Highway.”

“If there are extraterrestrials in outer space, KFC wants to become their restaurant of choice,” said Gregg Dedrick, former president of KFC Corp. The world is not enough for KFC. They need the entire universe hooked on their Original Recipe.

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