This is the first in our series of netnographies on popular chain restaurants. We will also be profiling Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster and T.G.I. Friday’s.

The Cheesecake Factory created the upscale casual dining segment in 1978 when it opened its first restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. Today, the company operates 164 full-service, casual dining restaurants throughout the U.S., including 150 restaurants under The Cheesecake Factory mark.

The Cheesecake Factory prides itself on the “lavish décor” of its restaurants, but very few diners comment on that. Like Applebee’s, they also offer Curbside To-Go service, but no poster mentioned that at all. The food is what people write about, and while many like it, many others find it very high in calories and saturated fat.

The restaurant won the 2009 Choice in Chains Gold Award in “Casual Dining” from Restaurants and Institutions magazine. More than 3,100 consumers were asked to rate nearly 120 chain restaurants in the magazine’s annual
 Consumers’ Choice in Chains survey across eight customer satisfaction attributes: food quality, menu
 variety, value, service, atmosphere, cleanliness, reputation and convenience. The majority of posts on social media deal with food quality, value, service and atmosphere.

Positive Themes

Diners find the food “yummy,” “delicious,” and even “insanely good.”

  • The red velvet and the Carmel turtle cheesecake from the cheesecake factory is so freaking delicious!! (source)
  • Welcome to a new week! Had a nice lunch today with Mark. We tried The Cheesecake Factory, YUMMY!! Had a Bourbon Street omelette and then a big hunk of Kahlua Coffee cheesecake. I’m sensing a theme here….good thing the only one in town is not close to us. (source)

“Great menu items” was the next largest theme, with diners naming lots of favorite dishes, but mostly desserts.

  • Enjoyed a delicious meal at Cheesecake Factory at 115 th & Metcalf. I had white bean/chicken chili (my favorite in the fall) and Henry had catfish. They were both very tasty! (source)
  • CheeseCake Factory was awesome…The freaken Banana Creme Cheesecake was da Shizzznizzz…OMG i had an epiphany when i was eating it… (source)

Diners also praise the ambiance and the service—even calling out waiters by name.

  • in Indiana eating at one of my top 5 favorite restaurants….”The Cheesecake Factory”. Great music, great food…..the kids love it! Waiting on the day that this restaurant comes to Michigan! (source)
  • I love my waiter brian at cheesecake factory, I recommend you ask for him if you go. (source)

Negative Themes

The biggest negative theme, “Unsafe to eat,” is primarily about excessive calories, sodium, fat and other unhealthy aspects of the chain’s food.

  • So I found out that my slice of cheesecake factory cheesecake is 1080 calories and 42 grams of saturated fat!! WOW there goes my calorie intake for the day!! (source)
  • Just for fun go to The Cheesecake Factory and order pasta Carbonara with chicken… It has 2500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat… ewww gross. (source)
  • thank you Cheesecake Factory for the sugar hangover…ouch! (source)

Many diners find the chain “expensive,” although, as we always point out, that’s a relative term.

  • Justin came home just in time to take me out to dinner before class. We went to the Cheesecake Factory because neither of us had ever been there. It tasted really good, but it was terribly expensive. That’s a once in a lifetime place to eat, but it was good. Oh, and it’s nothing at all like it is on Big Bang Theory. (source)

It’s safe to say that this diner does not have a favorable opinion of the chain’s prices—or much of anything else.

  • : Cheesecake Factory sucked so bad. The food sucked, the service sucked, the prices sucked, the people that were there sucked (except me and my friend of course). I’ve had better food at the taco truck. (source)

“Service” appeared in the Positive Themes, but it also appears here in Negative Themes.

  • Legal Seafood is good, but too expensive for a mall day.  Chevy’s is mediocre at best.  Cheesecake Factory was extremely disappointing. It took forever (and wasn’t crowded) and was pretty lousy. Wow, that is too bad.. (source)
  • Thursday would be better. How about the Olive Garden? My last experience with the Cheesecake Factory was not great. We had a bad waiter. Nice but couldn’t remember anything. (source)

Insights

Only one poster mentions that she was unfamiliar with the chain and was surprised to discover that they serve items other than cheesecake. Apparently the chain’s name, which could have been misleading when the company wasn’t well known, is not a problem.

The company says it’s “famous for our generous portions, which are ideal for sharing or taking home,” perhaps to imply that it’s not encouraging diners to eat their entire meal at one sitting. Probably good positioning to head off criticism from health-conscious diners, but then they say “be sure to save room to enjoy one of 50 legendary cheesecakes and specialty desserts.” If you eat an entire serving of their Pasta Carbonara, which one poster says has 2,500 calories, and then a dessert like White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake, well, you’d better get in a lot of exercise over the next few days.

To be fair, the chain does offer Weight Management Salads, but it’s not likely that people go to a place with “cheesecake” in its name in order to eat a low-calorie salad. And maybe that’s the way the chain wants it: People go to the restaurant for a meal that’s a treat and an indulgence, and those who go in with those expectations are generally satisfied.

 

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