The pandemic almost killed The Cheesecake Factory. Then delivery cheesecake took off.

The Cheesecake Factory looked like it was in trouble early in the pandemic, then delivery cheesecake saved the day.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Few restaurants are as operationally complex as The Cheesecake Factory. Its 500-page employee training manual includes:

  • 1 full page on handling strawberries
  • 12 steps for hot tea service
  • 42 words to use when describing cheesecake (e.g., “velvety,” “drizzled,” “yum-a-licious”)

That complexity extends to its physical locations, which range from 5k to 21k square feet and employ ~170 workers each.

At that scale, shutting down indoor dining was a bit of a problem

In March 2020, the chain furloughed 41k workers and cut pay for executives and board members by 20%. At one point, the SEC reported the firm was losing ~$6m per week.

Then, like many restaurants, Cheesecake Factory embraced takeout. It transformed the tables in its cavernous dining rooms into delivery assembly lines and converted parking spaces into pickup locations.

The chain also ramped up advertising by 60% compared to 2019 to attract to-go diners, and partnered with DoorDash for delivery orders.

As a result, delivery cheesecake took off:

  • The chain’s takeout operation is firing to the tune of $3m+ per location annually
  • Cheesecake is making up a higher percentage of sales than pre-pandemic
  • Q2 same-store sales are up 7.8% from 2019

But it hasn’t been a piece of cake

The chain’s 21-page menu (you read that right) paired with its short staff has made for a chaotic work environment — and, at some locations, floor-to-ceiling stacks of cheesecake.

That may sound amazing as a diner, but not so much for employees. The chain has now simplified its application process to attract more workers.

Thankfully, The Cheesecake Factory plans to operate a dine-in/takeout hybrid — meaning late-night cheesecake delivery isn’t going anywhere.

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