Culinary no-no #583


If you had to choose just one word to describe Cheesecake Factory restaurants, how about bold?

Bold in their architecture.

After five Cheesecake Factory locations had opened Rick McCormack was brought in to design future restaurants.

“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,” McCormack said.

“We have these French limestone floors, then we throw in some Egyptian columns, Victorian beadboard wood paneling — a really eclectic mix — which most people wouldn’t be brave enough to try, but, fortunately, the way we assembled them, it worked pretty well. You can’t knock their success. 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 that was fun to be involved with.

“The one design element everyone, for good reason, seems to focus on when you talk about Cheesecake Factory design are the Egyptian-style columns. Certainly they’re very unique and people immediately take notice of them, which is one reason they’re there.”

Bold in their overflowing plates.

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And a bold menu, more than 250 dishes, all bundled up in a menu about the size of a small town phone book.

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So many tasty options, for me it’s tough to narrow down, but a favorite is…

The meatloaf that made for three meals the last time I ordered.

Cheesecake Factory is a red hot phenomenon with close to 200 restaurants and plans to expand to 300 someday. Everything is homemade except the cheesecake (comes from an actual factory in California). The massive amount of choices appeals to a wide clientele resulting in…

restaurant traffic morgan stanley

The Cheesecake Factory has the highest traffic numbers in the restaurant industry. Source: Morgan Stanley

But what about that book-like menu? Too big? One study says yes, that diners can become overwhelmed.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) showed volunteers sets of either six, 12, or 24 scenic pictures. They were instructed to select their favorite that would be printed on some merchandise. Brain scans were performed on the volunteers while they were trying to decide.

Researchers found the volunteers wanted enough choices, but not so many that required a lot of brain power.

Two specific areas of the brain weighed the costs and benefits of choosing between 6, 12, and 24 pictures. Brain activity was greater for volunteers who had to pick from 12 pictures and less for those choosing either 6 or 24.

From Science Daily:

As the number of options increases, the potential reward increases, but then begins to level off due to diminishing returns. “The idea is that the best out of 12 is probably rather good, while the jump to the best out of 24 is not a big improvement,” (Colin) Camerer (Caltech’s Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics) says. At the same time, the amount of effort required to evaluate the options increases. Together, mental effort and the potential reward result in a sweet spot where the reward isn’t too low and the effort isn’t too high.

Camerer points out that 12 isn’t some magic number for human decision-making, but rather an artifact of the experimental design. He estimates that the ideal number of options for a person is probably somewhere between 8 and 15, depending on the perceived reward, the difficulty of evaluating the options, and the person’s individual characteristics.

A Cheesecake Factory menu with only 8-15 items?

No no no.


One thought on “Culinary no-no #583

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (10/15/18) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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