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Cheesecake Factory and the Downside of Gargantuan Portion Sizes

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So yesterday we went to the Newport Beach outpost of the Cheesecake Factory chain with my cranky 70-year-old MIL ("Broccoli Cheese Soup?! No, I don't want THAT, my stomach can't handle that, now I have to look at the menu all over again!!!") and the Spinster Family Friend. Packed as always with OC shoppers. Efficiently seated after the accurately-predicted 20-minute wait, our friendly and busy server gets our drink orders and has the busboy plonk down the soft, faintly warm, sweet bread mini-loaves. The sweetness makes them addictive. We order Avocado Egg Rolls (hey, it sounded light). A nice interplay of crisp deep-fried wrapper, cool avocado and (there it is again!) sweet tamarind/rice vinegar dipping sauce. They are quickly eaten-- before they can get cool. You'll see why that's a big deal.

Then my main course arrives: Fish and Chips. A mountain of beer-battered cod planks, a Big Honkin' Spoonful of cole slaw, and an Idaho field's worth of french fries. A pickly tartar sauce helps the first couple of planks go down quickly. Then it happens.

All the food starts to cool to room temperature.

And then you notice the fish pieces are salty. And the beer batter is tough and too chewy (believe me, it's not a pleasant thing)-- obviously overmixed and laid on way too thickly. I notice that everyone else's excitement with their entrées has long faded. No one can finish their huge plate of food.

Maybe I'm just venting. But how about HIGHER-QUALITY FOOD, PREPARED COMPETENTLY and IN PORTIONS THAT CAN BE ENJOYED WHILE IT'S STILL AT AN APPROPRIATE TEMPERATURE?!?!?

I think Chowhound-worthy places in general are that way because they know about those key facts that make food worth eating. Am I out of line here?

  1. No,your not out of line.Haven't eaten there in a longntime.
    Sometimes food can get cold quick because it left the kitchen
    maybe after sitting awhile.Or i have been in some places where they have the air conditoner AND ceiling fans going,depending on the type of restaurant.I don't doggie bag left over fish.
    Say roast turkey like at Marie Callender's or some place else.It is also a waste of food.So they charge more to cover the cost of food people don't eat.Which the place would'nt have to through away if they did smaller portions.

    1. I don't think you're out of line, but I also don't think you're CF's target demographic. They have a highly successful business model based on quantities of food that usually cannot be eaten in one sitting and must be taken home. Their clientel consider this "value." To have them reduce the amount of food would be like telling Mcdonalds to start selling Chinese food or Coke to sell New Coke. Disaster.

      In your particular instance, deepfried food has a really short halflife. Like Mcdonalds fries, they have to be eaten within minutes before they become inedible. Quadruple the volume, and you have a leftover pound or two of coagulated grease. I've had pretty good luck reheating leftover fish and chips in the oven. 400 degrees for 10 minutes or so and most of the grease wicks away.

      1. The other downside has to do with health. You can think you're eating a healthy salad, but the Chinese Chicken and Thai Steak salads at CF are rumored to top 1,000 calories each.

        4 Replies
        1. re: tamerlanenj

          1,000 calories actually seems rather modest compared to the calorie figures I've seen for dishes at other enormo-entree chains.

          1. re: Humbucker

            Cheesecake factory flat out refuses to publish nutrition info. I think they know the horrific press such a move would generate. I have no doubt that some of their pasta dishes top 2,500 calories per plate.

            1. re: Humbucker

              At Islands the Chinese Chicken Salad is somewhere around 1500 calories. Same for the Tortilla Soup.

              Be careful.

              1. re: therealbigtasty

                Actually that salad is 1130 cals, and a large soup is 630 cals.

                http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/men...

                Not a fan of theirs, but information should be accurate when possible. The sodium content is what I take the most umbrage with. 3680 mg in the "Kobb" salad, which does have just over 1500 cals."

          2. I am always perplexed by the math that goes something like this:

            Mediocre food + HUGE quantities = Outstanding food

            Must be that new math.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Seth Chadwick

              Cheesecake Factory based their business model on that old joke: two old ladies are at a Catskills Mountain resort and one says, "The food here is terrible." "Yes," says the other, "and such small portions."

              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                (Standing ovation!) I've been puzzling over that equation for some time now. I never was too good at math, though. I'd rather just have functioning taste buds.

              2. I've never eaten at Cheesecake Factory and never understood the logic.. I believe in 'niche' food.. would you eat cheesesteaks at a sushi place? or vice versa (I haven't but there's a place like that out in Orange County) I love cheesecake, but I can't imagine eating there for lunch or any other time.

                Thank you for your review. It's definitely something to think about next time I hear some friends are going there. =) I'll eat first and order an iced tea maybe?

                1 Reply
                1. re: meekorouse

                  I've had cheesecake at the CF. It was okay, but nothing special. It was no better than a Sara Lee frozen cheesecake.

                  TT

                2. The last time we dined at CF was on vacation last year on Oahu. I know, but the restaurants in Hawaii all have strange hours, we wanted a late lunch and nothing was open anymore (until dinner).

                  Anyway, I ordered the Meatloaf sandwich. When it arrived there were not 1 but TWO meatloaf sandwiches on my plate! I knew this was normal but I had to comment that I had only ordered one sandwich.

                  I wound up eating one and giving the other to the valet at the hotel. He was very appreciative so it worked out.

                  1. I don't really understand the temperature problem. It doesn't matter how much food you are served - it will all cool at the same rate. If you are saying that you received twice as much food as at other places, and after you ate the first half, the second half was too cold, then I still don't understand. Of course it would be cooler than other restaurants' food, except for the fact that there would be no food left at other places.

                    Try ordering double portions somewhere else. Eat one portion and then start the second. No surprise - it has cooled down!

                    Perhaps I just misinterpreted your post. You didn't seem to have a problem with the temperature of the first couple of planks of fish. Was the food (regardless of portion size) already too cool when it was delivered to your table?

                    1. Suzy.... How can this be hard to understand? Too much mediocre food, which is only edible while it's still hot. It can't stay hot, and its faults become more glaring as it cools. How could the CF's business model/practices be modified to make it better?

                      1. Human-sized portions (and not the 450-pound gluttons they seem to be targeting-- normal-sized people)

                      2. Good preparation ("SALT ISN'T A SPICE, CHESTER-- STEP AWAY FROM THE BOX OF MORTON'S!!")

                      3. Keep entrée plates in a warmer except for salads

                      I'm sorry, but my life goal isn't to be so fat I need to be cut out of my house to go to hospital. I don't enjoy those ridiculous portions served at so many lousy restaurants. I'm a Chowhound, not a Chowpig. I may live to eat, but I live to eat WELL.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                        I think this is why my hubby and I stay away from places like this. When we do go to eat at places, we'll usually split. Even sharing a chicken katsu plate at L&L is plenty enough for me to eat.. hubby & I get a cup of rice and split the meat between us, as well the drink. I think it helps that we're off the wagon Weight Watchers though.. I know I'm not counting my points but between walking and portion control, I haven't gained too much weight. Stopping when you aren't hungry is good too.

                        I think people like a good bargain for their buck. Instead of ordering 2 huge plates of something that you thought you liked and being dissatisfied, maybe choose something 2people can share and be willing to pay a 2buck plate sharing fee if you must. Otherwise there's always the doggy bag route. (one won't have to worry about it being cold as it can be nuked at home).

                        I think that we all at one time or another were victems of the clean plate club and picking on people that haven't learned proper portion control isn't a way to win fans I'm guessing. =) Weight is a struggle for everyone, even us 'healthy people' and needs to be monitored and given new tools each day.

                        Still don't understand why the portions are so huge and you can't get a kids meal unless you're under 12. That just bugs me that...

                        1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                          Actually, unlike a lot of "all-you-can-eat" places, the CF doesn't seem to attract the obese. At least at lunch, I've mostly noticed quite slim middle-aged types. Have you observed otherwise, or are you drawing a conclusion based on portion size? I think many people just leave a lot uneaten, or take the leftovers home.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            I guess because I'm very obese, I sort of feel a need to defend myself. I HATE all you can eat, belly up to the bar kinds of places and avoid them if at all possible. I would much rather have a small portion of well prepared, high quality food than a huge plateful of crap. If I could make a plea to places like CF (which I have never been in), it would be to please cut back the portion sizes and take a fresh look at what is being served.

                        2. It works because the masses think that getting twice as much food volume as other restaurants makes it better!

                          Hey folks... TWO x CRAP = CRAP!!!

                          1. Wow, got some semi-official CF calorie count info from a friend....Yikes! Carl's Jr. and Hardee's actually seem HEALTHY next to some of CF's dishes!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: newJJD

                              Is this info online someplace? I can't find ANY nutritional info on CF dishes. And the CF website has some lame disclaimer that "We don't list nutrition information. However, we only use the freshest ingredients available!"

                              I'm expecting some Monty Python Crunchy Frog skit: "We use only the finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose."

                              http://orangecow.org/pythonet/sketche...

                              1. The rationale for the huge portions is simple, it's money. You can think of it this way:
                                It costs a fixed amount per meal to have you sit there and dine for an hour (these are mere examples)

                                $1 rent
                                $1 heat and lights
                                $1 waitstaff
                                $1 backstaff (cooks & bus)

                                Then there are the variable costs - the meal itself. To cook you a sane portion of food would be, say $1 raw food bringing the total to $5 for a meal they can charge $10 for.

                                If they double the portions, it's now only $6 for a meal they can charge you $18 for. Their profit goes from $5 to $12. You take home a meal's worth of crap in a doggy bag, essentially worth a buck to the resto, but you just paid $8 for it. There's your "value".

                                If I'm forced by circumstances to go to a place like that, I order either apps, or split an entree.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Loren3

                                  Well said. That's exactly it. That's why McDonalds wants you to "supersize" it, too, especially since giving you more soda costs them virtually nothing.

                                2. I'm not a fan of large portions, even for the value, because I'm very picky about eating leftovers. If I know I'm not going to finish a meal, I'm careful about what I order. It will have to be something that I will eat again reheated or I don't bother.

                                  Hence, at Cheesecake Factory I gravitate to the salads. They offer "lunch sized" salads before 5:00 pm, which is what I'll order almost every time. I've noticed on the new menu that they are now offering some smaller sized entrees during the lunch period as well.

                                  1. In several cities such as Des Moines, Davenport (IA), Lake Elmo MN, Rockford IL and Olathe KS, places such as the Cheesecake Factory aren't the only villans when it comes to nutrition and outsized portions. Those cities are unfortunate (IMHO) to be the locations of Machine Shed Restaurants which feature Midwestern-type cooking. The portions are huge--even for lunch. There is no regards for low-carb diets, no regards for trans-fats (as far as I can tell). They use white bread instead of wheat or 12-grain. Nutrition information about the dishes at a Machine Shed restaurant? Forget it! You can get better information from a Subway, a Burger King, a McDonald's or even a Wendy's.

                                    As for the Machine Shed, you have to negotiate with your waiter if you want something healthy--or better yet cancel the order period. I speak from experience--which involved a disastorous lunch and a breakfast that had to be cancelled because they didn't have a bran cereal on hand.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Braniff

                                      The last time I went to Machine Shed, I wasn't impressed at all. I had the stuffed pork loin and...uh...stuffing, I suppose. My vegetable side was boiled baby carrots. The pork was dry, the dressing wet. The service was also a little odd and the chairs were ungodly uncomfortable for all of us. The only good point was that it only cost $50 for four of us to dine, excluding tip.

                                      1. re: Braniff

                                        I just checked out the menus on Machine Shed's web site out of morbid curiosity. That was a very bad idea for someone recovering from pneumonia and having a bit of a queasy stomach.

                                        1. re: duriangirl

                                          I have to say, though, that the apple dumpling is pretty darn good.

                                      2. This same bashing happens every time someone posts any thread about the Cheesecake Factory. People, if you don't like it, there's a very simple solution - DON'T EAT THERE. Surely this much time and energy could be spent on better pursuits than jumping up and down on this dead horse.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: uptown jimmy

                                          That opens a whole different debate, though, jimmy. I'm not sure Chowhound's purpose is to debate the topic of personal freedom vs. public control as related to choices in diet and the related consequence to the health care system.

                                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                                            I'm thankful that I will never have to share a meal with the complainers on this thread. If the portions are to big or the food has too many calories for you don't go back to that restaurant. The Cheesecake Factory didn't promise you small portions or low-calorie food. And no one reads this Chowhound thread to hear others pontificate about our "teetering" health care system like the poster above. If I had to listen to this crowd complain at an adjoining table in a restaurant I'd ask to move to another table.

                                            1. re: Nukedli

                                              To Suzy Q and Nukedli:

                                              <Applauding>

                                              1. re: Nukedli

                                                Yeah, and if you don't like the 'complainers' here then you don't have to read their comments or post a comment. CH didn't promise you that folks are not going to have negative comments about 'chains' or other subjects that are discussed here. It's called an exchange of ideas. And those ideas are going to include both negative and postive ones. Good luck finding a (boring) 'table' where everyone agrees with glowing sickening sweet reviews on any given subject. That's the table I'd steer clear of for sure.

                                                1. re: crt

                                                  There is a difference between debating the quality of the food (or lack thereof) and the points raised by Suzy Q and Nukedli.

                                                  Once you go to CF, you know what you are in for the next time around. A mountain of food, usually. Eat an appetizer for a main course, split a meal, take home leftovers, or don't go back. Or order a salad WITH THE DRESSING ON THE SIDE or without the dressing altogether. But don't keep going and complaining about all you don't like about the place.

                                                  1. re: crt

                                                    "It's called an exchange of ideas."

                                                    LOL

                                                    I call it redundant bitching.

                                                2. re: Suzy Q

                                                  "This same bashing happens every time someone posts any thread about the Cheesecake Factory."

                                                  So? Why don't you follow some of your own advice.

                                                  People, if you don't like it, there's a very simple solution - DON'T ACCESS THE THREAD. Surely you know by your first statement what's going to happen.

                                                  As I told another...CH didn't promise you that folks are not going to have negative comments about 'chains' or other subjects that are discussed here. It's called an exchange of ideas. And those ideas are going to include both negative and postive ones. Surely your time and energy could be better spent finding a boring thread where everyone agrees with glowing and sickening sweet reviews on any given subject.

                                                3. If you are eating so much that your food turns cold before you finish, the portion is too big and YOU SHOULD STOP EATING.

                                                  1. Never been a huge fan of CF. For all the reasons that many have listed here. I've actually only eaten there a couple of times and have never been able to figure out the popularity angle. Over the top oversized portions with sodium and fat content that can start your arteries to clog before you take your first bite. But hey, TETO (to each their own). The cheesecake varieties are so overly sweet and would send an ant colony into a feeding frenzy if you placed one near the entrance. YUCK! JMHO...Cheesecake, although a sweet desert, was never meant to be served the way CF serves it.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: crt

                                                      Over the top oversized portions with sodium and fat content that can start your arteries to clog before you take your first bite. But hey, TETO (to each their own). = the american way of eating, thats the draw

                                                    2. Hello everyone! I'm new to this site. Funny story, kind of... You see, I have worked at the Cheesecake Factory for about 2 years and was bored and trying to search for calorie content of some of the dishes I eat there. I happened upon this site and was surprised to find such a response.

                                                      I see all kinds at work - people who gasp at the portions (I can't say I blame them, they are a bit ridiculous) and people who clear their plates, and the plates of those dining with them, and still have room for dessert.

                                                      Being a server there is tough work. People sometimes get frustrated over the wait, the length of the menu, the food not being quite what they expected, the price of certain additions, etc. Maybe it's just that people are cranky when they're hungry.

                                                      At any rate, we are well-trained in the ins and outs of our extensive menu. I always mention the lunch sized portions to people (we also have some smaller "appetizer sized" salads that you can get at dinner when lunch portions are no longer available). Also, we've just added a special bar menu (M-F 4-6pm in the bar only) where you can order smaller versions of some appetizers and salads. People seem to be really happy about that. Plus, in the bar you can bypass the wait and seat yourself at a hightop bar table.

                                                      But you see, its sometimes hard to please everyone. Once I suggested that 2 people who were ordering the same thing split their entree. When it arrived, I said, "aren't you glad you shared it?" But they were actually mad at me for suggesting it because they wanted more food than that. But that's not the norm, of course.

                                                      Another note on sharing - when we encourage sharing entrees it results in lower check averages = savings for our guests. Many people do not realize that it is ok to tip as if you had ordered your own entree, of course, only if you feel that the service was worthy.

                                                      As for the calorie counts, it does seem strange that the Corporate Headquarters won't list them. It seems to me that we just don't feel like many people that come to eat there are counting calories. Its more of an indulgence I guess. I'm glad we've added those new weight management salads (although i think that's an unfortunate name for them), but oddly, they aren't available in a lunch size.

                                                      I do find it wasteful when I see how much food goes into the trash (I always offer to box peoples' food though). And I do know that it's easy to keep eating what's in front of you, and a lot of us were raised to finish our plates. Some people ask for a box right away, which is fine too.

                                                      Suggestions on calorie counting at CF from one who knows -
                                                      Ask for low-cal dressing on the side instead of regular dressing and share entrees. Also, the Thai lettuce wraps (appetizer, also on bar menu) are good and pretty healthy with the sauces on the side (how they're normally served). Also, just skipping the free bread at the beginning of the meal can help a lot. And of course, skipping the cheesecake. :)

                                                      Anyway, hope this message helps to provide some information. Any questions or comments I'd be glad to hear them

                                                      41 Replies
                                                      1. re: working girl

                                                        >>As for the calorie counts, it does seem strange that the Corporate Headquarters won't list them. It seems to me that we just don't feel like many people that come to eat there are counting calories. Its more of an indulgence I guess. I'm glad we've added those new weight management salads (although i think that's an unfortunate name for them), but oddly, they aren't available in a lunch size.<<

                                                        You notice that we don't hear about the necessity of having nutritional information on this board when the discussions center around BBQ joints in Texas or Lotus of Siam or and of a number of favorites.

                                                        If this disclosure is required, why not make it required of all eating establishments??

                                                        Personally, I went to CF last weekend. Far too trendy for my tastes.

                                                        1. re: jlawrence01

                                                          People are actually complaining that they are getting TOO MUCH food when they order from here??? WTH???? Personally, NOTHING irritates me more than going to a restaurant and getting like 14 fries on your plate with your meal, or like last week, ordering a gyro and having it arrive with 3 slices of meat on it!!!! This is also why I avoid Subway like the plague.......say it with me..........SKIMPY portions!!! If I can eat my fill and have leftovers to take home, I am a happy camper!!!!!!

                                                          1. re: Lindseyup67

                                                            many people find an over abundance of food, a turn off, i didnt say skimpy, i said over abundance, and quite often of poor quality, but hey enjoy, whatever floats your boat, for many folks it quantity not quality

                                                            1. re: intrepid

                                                              I don't think CF is bad quality at all. It's a very good chain restaurant imho. I mean for around $12-$18 a plate you can't expect French Laundry. Love the cuban sandwich... can't say it's authentic because I'VE NEVER BEEN TO CUBA.

                                                                1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                  Not the French Laundry, but in my small mid-western city, $12-$18 will get you:
                                                                  *salmon prosciutto wrapped & slow roasted with wild mushroom risotto.....................17.95
                                                                  * Roasted Half Duck with Dried Cherry Sauce
                                                                  served with roasted red skin potatoes tossed with spinach and sweet red peppers 14.95
                                                                  *GNOCCHI house ricotta gnocchi, braised beef, roasted butternut squash, asparagus 13

                                                                  I don't think the CF has bad food per se, but I do resent spending 12.95 for a Factory Grande Burrito given what I can get locally in the same price range

                                                                  1. re: smarsh

                                                                    Mmm smarsh...you're a lot luckier than the rest of us then!

                                                                    1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                      Really? Because I live in a large, expensive city (Los Angeles) and our favorite local reasonably-priced restaurants offer delicious things in that price range, too.
                                                                      Examples from a few restaurants nearby that we frequent:
                                                                      Blackened Atlantic Salmon over baby green, belgian endive, green
                                                                      beans, pesto vinaigrette 16.50

                                                                      White Fish Lake superior white fish sauteed with lemon and capers sauce, served with artichoke puree and spinach 14.95

                                                                      Roasted Chicken with herbs de provence, pomme frites 13.95

                                                                      Crisp duck leg with lentils $17

                                                                      LasagnaVerde "Omaggio Nonna Elvira" with Beef and Veal Ragu $12

                                                                      Now granted, I do live in a big city and have those dining options, but I don't get why the Cheesecake Factory has an hour wait when the Greek restaurant half a block a way (home of the White Fish I posted) can always seat us within 15 minutes!

                                                            2. re: jlawrence01

                                                              "If this (calorie/nutrional) disclosure is required, why not make it required of all eating establishments?"

                                                              Be careful what you wish for. If this were to happen, about all we'd be left with would be mega chains as they're the only ones who could afford the nutrional analysis and bureaucracy that would be involved in a reporting/enforcement system.

                                                              Think of it - every time a chef wanted to do a special, they couldn't offer it without analyzing everything that went into the dish. No substitutions. Nothing created off the cuff. All we'll have is stale, unimaginative, corporate-kitchen-developed menus, but they'll have a label on them for each dish so everyone could see actual numbers to what they should have thought all along - that beurre blanc has a high fat content, potatoes are high in carbs, and sprouts taste like dirt.

                                                              Actually, the labels wouldn't say that last thing. But maybe they should if we're thinking of going that far.

                                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                Panini Guy, I don't agree with you at all and I think you're being very closed-minded. Also, having that attitude has made our country--and especially the children--fat!

                                                                Independent places can definitely figure out how many calories/fat/carbs are in their dishes. It's actually quite easy to get the nutritional analysis of a dish if it's not done by a lab. There are so many tools online to do it, and I often will use them myself. I think customers do have a right to know because as someone who's spending her hard-earned money, I like to know what's going in my body. Don't tell me to stay home at make food myself!

                                                                Independent chains would have to put a disclaimer that it's only an estimate because sometimes a chef might have a heavy/light hand in adding an ingredient. However, considering restaurants follow recipes more or less, and they only change menus usually once a season, the owner and chef can come together and provide this info to paying customers.

                                                                1. re: Jacey

                                                                  That attitude hasn't made anybody's children fat. How dumb does one have to be to think that a Frappuccino or a Biggie or Chicken Nuggets or whatever is GOOD for you and NOT fattening? Nobody with half a brain thinks any of that is good for you. Stop trying to blame the kitchens and start taking some responsibility for the fat butts out there.

                                                                  Yes, there are tools on the web. They are woefully insufficient for the task at the moment for any creative kitchen.

                                                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                    I was reviewing a Becton Dickenson sponsored nutritional guide to fast food that was published five years ago. While there were few surprises in the book, some people, mostly medical professionals, were surprised at the high fat content of some of the coffee drinks.

                                                                    Why should independents get off without providing nutritional data on their food? People have a right to know what is being pumped into their body to make the correct nutritional decision.

                                                                    1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                      The question must be asked again... How did we make it as a species so far?

                                                                      First off, nothing is being "pumped into their body". You make it seem like food professionals are the villains when it's consumers that make the choices about what goes in their body. If the tuna salad looks white and wet, odds are pretty good there's a lot of mayo in there. If you're adding syrups to your coffee, there are calories involved. Does it really matter that much if that shot of caramel is 300 or 350 calories?

                                                                      Here's what you're asking for if you want everything lableled. Let's say you have a favorite indie coffee house.

                                                                      - Labels for everything, whether they make it in house or not. Keep in mind most of these places use a chalkboard or similar menu. Every type of bagel, every variety of muffin, every other pastry, cookie, bun, roll, cupcake, every iteration of any panini or soup.... every single one with a label that has to be calculated, categorized, printed and displayed. And most importantly, if the big chains lobby for it - verified by a third party agency (expensive).

                                                                      And then you've got to do the same with every coffee drink.

                                                                      You'd be adding an extremely significant amount of work onto small mom & pops to the point where many would likely cut back their menus or just find something better to do with their investment - like a open a dry cleaners or a Curves.

                                                                      Take that to pizza places, diners, ice cream shops and every other kind of independent you can think of... you're talking millions of manhours of labor doing something that should be readily apparent to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of food (and why shouldn't taxpayers expect at least that much from our educational system?)

                                                                      I have no idea why any medical professional would be surprised at the fat content of a coffee drink. That's actually embarassing. A 20 oz. frappuccino (TM) is about 1/6 coffee, 2/3 milk, 1/6 sugar (syrup) and quite often served with whipped cream. If it's frozen/iced it usually contains an ice cream or yogurt base. You can WATCH the barista make it, so why should there be any surprise? That makes me a bit worried about the medical profession.

                                                                      I'm waiting for someone here to suggest that Grant Aschatz, Thom. Keller, Chas. Trotter or Masa Takiyama not serve some creation on a whim because that dish hasn't been adequately analyzed for the purpose of producing a nutritional label. Because that seems to be what you're asking for.

                                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                        I'm always amused by the people who advocate personal responsibility and at the same time advocate witholding information that would allow people to exercise their personal responsibility by making informed choices.

                                                                        It's a not-so-hidden secret that many restaurants -- both chain and independent -- enhance the flavor of their food by adding extra fat, which may or may not be visible to the consumer, and which can create a huge difference in the fat and calories of a dish that sounds healthy (grilled chicken, for example). This also creates wide variability from the calorie count of foods we prepare at home and those in various restaurants. It's not hard to do a simple fat/carb/protein breakdown of a dish -- I do it at home all the time, using only a scale and a reference book, not even a computer.

                                                                        I don't particularly advocate for mandatory nutritional breakdowns in menus of "independent" restaurants, especially those that change their menus frequently. The big difference between chains and independents is that most people (not chowhounds, of course) who eat out once a day or more are eating at chains -- it's not a once-in-a-while, special occasion, splurge. It's food they eat every day, sometimes more than once a day, and it constitutes a significant portion of their diet. In addition, it's food that they're feeding their children. You may say that it's all choice, and they should know better, but how can they "know" something that's being deliberately witheld from them, and how can they make informed choices without that information? If you're going to advocate that position, then you should also be advocating nutrition classes in schools, so that everyone -- not just people who've have the time and skills to attain this knowledge on their own -- have the basic skills necessary to "know better."

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          Ruth,
                                                                          Good points, but I would also suggest that it's almost exclusively the national and big regional chains (again) responsible for that "invisible" fat, not independents.
                                                                          If you re-read the second half of my post above yours, you'll see that I did mention that taxpayers should expect more nutritional info to be taught in schools.
                                                                          The bigger societal question to be asked if your points are fact is, why are so many people eating so many of their meals at chains (and getting fat because of it)? This is something that's uniquely North American (US/Canada) and that we're exporting worldwide, so that our big butts will soon be shared by Europe and Asia. What are the socialogical/economic factors that are allowing this to be acceptable?

                                                                          Btw, just to re-state - my points above were exaggerated to make the case that if one seeks governmental interference, one does not have control over where that interference stops. So it might be just calories and fat that have to be labeled, but it might not. It might be everything on a standard supermarket food item nutritional label. And that's very expensive.

                                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                            You must be pretty naive if you think "independents" don't use just as much butter, oil, cream, cheese, fat, etc as their chain counterparts. Just because you're ordering chicken parm at a non-chain, it doesn't make it any healthier. Often the "TLC" makes heavy hands when adding the extra "goodness."

                                                                            PG, I think it's time for you to drop the subject. You're getting too heated over this and it's swaying away from the original post and poster's tensions.

                                                                            1. re: Jacey

                                                                              Jacey,
                                                                              I AM an independent. I have a lot of independents on my street. We eat at each others places.
                                                                              If I appear "heated" maybe it's because of folks who want big government to solve all of our problems with more regulations instead of figuring out why our US food culture is so screwed up to begin with and how to get back on track.
                                                                              I do think that relates to the original post. Nice Freudian slip btw.

                                                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                jfood would also be against the independents having to post the same statistics as the large chains. The beauty of the indys is there ability to cook what is fresh versus from a play book. And jfood agrees it would be a daunting task for each chef to perform on a daily basis, probably reducing their numbers.

                                                                                Likewise jfood is not willing to have yet more governmental inteference/intervention into his every day life. He knows a fish with butter sauce has calories, fried food is not as healthy as steamed, etc. If people want to play ostrich at CF or any other large plated resto, then be jfood's guest. He will handle his own and his family's nutritional education, thank you very much.

                                                                                And does jfood want the schools to teach nutrition. Would be nice, but we've all seen how great the schools have done with sex education. Today a report hit the wire that 1 out of 4 teen girls have STD's. Nice job guys. Let's see, they hand out 1 condom in class for the weekend with 3 nights, do the math. Nutrition will probably hand out 1 big mac and a coupon for the weekend as well.

                                                                                Yes everyone should be responsible for their own caloric intake. If jfood knows he is going to a steak joint for dinner he lightens lunch, if at all. He, like many, are tired of everyone blaming McD's, BK, CF and the like for the obesity epidemic. It is NOT the restaurant's fault, it's the customer's. Everyone wants to blame big business and food chains, and they normally do this while sitting on their fat butts, eating a cheeseburger, fries and soda in front of the tv.

                                                                                Come on guys, remember the founders of the US took responsibility onto themsleves, the least we can do is do such in our eating hablts.

                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                  Hear hear to jfood and Panini Guy. I'm not sure I can add anything that the two of you haven't eloquently expressed thus far.

                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    Considering that many schools aren't allowed to actually educate about sex -- only "abstinence" -- it's not surprising it's not very effective.

                                                                                    Some nutrition education would be better than none. When you read the questions people post on this board every day that reveal a lack of basic nutrition knowledge I find stunning, that becomes clear.

                                                                                  2. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                    Freudian slip....you're confused. I think you have totally misunderstood my point. I'm saying that independent restaurants can have just as much crap as the chain restaurants in their food.

                                                                                    What do you mean "I am Independent?" Do yo happen to own an Indie rest? If so, obviously you feel the way you do, but please put some healthy options on your menu and note them for consumers who aren't familiar with anything about nutrition. I majored in nutrition and research shows that most Americans know much less than you think about the amount of calories/fat in the food they eat.

                                                                                    Case Closed. I'm done going in circles with you. We'll need to agree to disagree about some things.

                                                                                    1. re: Jacey

                                                                                      The slip was: "(original) poster's tensions" instead of "intentions".

                                                                                      I do create and serve food at a coffeehouse. I list the ingredients on anything being served for lunch or brunch very clearly and answer any questions. What I don't provide is calorie counts or nutritional analysis. As most of what I do is Mediterranean influenced (except for a gratuitous but necessary turkey club), it's all pretty nutritious. Most soups are vegetarian and if there's cream or dairy in there it's noted.

                                                                                      That part isn't hard. And most of the independents I meet with do things with relatively the same thoughtfulness Yes, there are unscrupulous and uncaring independent operators. But I would wager the percentage of those in the indie world is significantly less than in the chain world. Especially if you eliminate Chinese take out ;-)

                                                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                        You run a coffee place in Pittsburgh, which is a totally different story. You don't own a restaurant where it's a food destination. You're not in a cosmo major city where tourists visit. I can assume you're a little local place where most people stop in to grab some java and maybe some grub if they're hungry. My previous point was for restaurants where people dine, not a little joint like yours. Once again, case closed Panini Guy.

                                                                                        1. re: Jacey

                                                                                          First off, we are a destination for a lot of people every single day. No we're not TFL, but that's not what you've been talking about - you're talking about the types of things people eat every day at chains - which are not much more a "destination" than my little hole in the wall.

                                                                                          But this has nothing to do with me, it has more to do with your painting culinary professionals with a broad brush in an extremely antagonistic way with accusations that are unfounded and untrue in my experiences.

                                                                                          I suggest you go take some food prep courses at a local culinary school if you'd like to see what pros do and how they're trained. Maybe then you'll recognize your "studies" really target a rather small segment of the entire gastro world.

                                                                                          In my little non-academic, unsophisticated three-block part of the world I've got a DOC pizza joint, a sushi bar voted best in city, a mideast resto among the best in city, a Szechuan resto also voted best in city, and a new acclaimed Napa-style bistro among other places where I'd gladly have lunch or dinner. None - I repeat NONE of them tricks customers the way you suggest. Last word again with some demeaning comment or are you actually going to leave it "case closed".

                                                                                          Alternatively, you can start footnoting your comments with citations from peer-reviewed papers with actual facts so we can actually examine the veracity of your position.

                                                                                          Until then, about all we're going to agree on is that if you're cleaning your plate at Cheesecake Factory odds are you're not doing your body any favors.

                                                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                            If you saw how slim and fit I am, and the healthy lifestyle I lead, you'd tell me to go eat a sandwich...or maybe a panini. :)

                                                                                            Case closed, door shut, adios...

                                                                                          2. re: Jacey

                                                                                            Jacey, I'm confused, as you appear to be contradicting yourself. Are you saying that Panini Guy's "little joint" shouldn't have to worry about providing nutritional information because, according to you, his place isn't a "food destination" where people actually dine? Your earlier point seemed to be saying that all restos should be obligated to provide such info.

                                                                                            Oh, and by the way - the attitude in your posts does nothing to add credibility to your case. If you don't agree with PG, that's cool - but why insult his business?

                                                                  2. re: working girl

                                                                    Hey working girl.. This is a little off topic but I love CF and was wondering what you think the best dishes are. Some that I have yet to have but want to try are the Hibachi Steak, Steak Diane, and Lemon Roasted Chicken. Any insight to these and other menu items?

                                                                    1. re: steakrules85

                                                                      Hey steakrules85! Sorry working girl didn't get back to you...but lucky for you i also work and the CF and I'm going to list my favorite items for you!

                                                                      Chicken Costelleta
                                                                      Fettucini with Chx and Sundried Tom.
                                                                      Farfalle with Chx and Roasted Garlic
                                                                      Steak Diane (but is a little in the peppery side) but can be ordered without
                                                                      Our New Maple Bourbon Pork Tenderloin
                                                                      Meatloaf
                                                                      Luau Salad
                                                                      BBQ Ranch Chx Salad
                                                                      Hot Spinach and Cheese Dip (Appetizer)
                                                                      Mini Crabcakes (Appetizer)
                                                                      Avocado Eggrolls (Appetizer)
                                                                      Fried Mac and Cheese (Appetizer)
                                                                      Shrimp Scampi
                                                                      Thai Lettuce Wraps (Appetizer)
                                                                      Mahi Mahi Medditeranean Style (Not listed on the Menu but your server should tell you about it)
                                                                      Godiva Brownie Sundae
                                                                      Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake
                                                                      Keylime Cheesecake
                                                                      Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake
                                                                      Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple

                                                                      Hope this helps!

                                                                      ***For all you who don't like CF big meals...don't come back cause your just going to make you server mad with your grouchiness...And for those who have seen the movie Waiting...its a very bad idea to be mean to the people who are in control of your food***

                                                                      **** And another thing tonight I worked and I got a $4 tip on a $80 dollar check...when I gave them amazing service...Thats about 5%...If you can't afford to tip ATLEAST 15% with good service...and 20% on amazing service esp. at the CF...DON'T COME IN!**** And you should always tip on the whole bill even if you ordered an expensive bottle of wine! Most people aren't aware that tips that servers recieve for the whole night they don't get to keep all of it...We have to tip too...our bussers, food runners, and bartenders! And its calculated off our sales...so even if I get a lousy tip on a high bill I still pay the bussers, food runners, and bartenders the same!***

                                                                      ***Sorry I had to vent for all the servers out there!***

                                                                      Thanks for Reading!

                                                                      1. re: Lovin_Cheese

                                                                        Amen! That is my thought exactly, you should be figuring your tip into your dining budget. It is simply unacceptable to stiff a waiter because you don't think it's neccesary. I don't work at CCF, but some people will always leave 10% or less. I figure it evens out over the course of the shift, because I typically leave with about 30% of my sales in tips after tip out. Also, I don't think it's a requirement to tip on wine bottles, Especially if it's an expensive one!

                                                                        At CCF.....

                                                                        appetizers:
                                                                        tex-mex rolls
                                                                        nachos
                                                                        buffalo tenders

                                                                        entrees:

                                                                        asian chicken salad
                                                                        shrimp ceasar- special request
                                                                        bbq ranch salad

                                                                        and the madeira sauce is awesome

                                                                        1. re: Kam7185

                                                                          I usually order pasta chicken davinci. My husband loves the thai pasta but i find they use too much sauce.

                                                                          one nice surprise. We always stick with pasta. But when i was dining on my own, i noticed you can order combos. The steak diane and shrimp scampi (I asked for wasabi mash) was very good.

                                                                          Any feedback on the skirt steak and the pork chop? I would like to try those next. Thanks.

                                                                          1. re: caitlink

                                                                            I have had both and both are great. The skirt steak was one of the longest and most tender pieces of meat I have ever eaten.

                                                                            1. re: steakrules85

                                                                              Steakrules85...Steak Diane for sure...and with the Lemon Roasted cx...its good...but the cx costelleta is the same thing only with breaded boneless chicken breast....so so good!

                                                                          2. re: Kam7185

                                                                            If you can't tip on an expensive bottle of wine then you shouldn't get it...every restaurant is different but most restaurants calculate a certain percent of a servers sales into a tip share that they pay into every night...If a table orders a bottle of wine...but doesn't tip on it...that table just cost that server money...I don't think people are aware of that fact though.

                                                                          3. re: Lovin_Cheese

                                                                            Lovin Cheese.. Thanks for the recs.. I am actually going Saturday and an in between the Hibachi Steak, Teriyaki Chicken, Lemon Roasted Chicken, and Steak Diane! What should I get??

                                                                              1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                                Only dish I get! If you go before 5:00pm, you can order the lunch size, so it is smaller portion and about $5.00 savings. Ask for a side of extra piccata sauce to take home and take home the pasta for a nice lunch the next day.

                                                                                1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                                  ehhhhhh I can get Chicken Picatta anytime at home but thanks for the rec. I have seen others get it. It looked good thoughh.

                                                                                2. re: steakrules85

                                                                                  If forced to choose between only those choices, I would say either Lemon Chix or Steak Diane. Hibachi steak tastes like basic teriyaki beef and the teriyaki chix is boring and basic. Lemon chix beware is a huge portion - half a chicken!

                                                                                  1. re: ndcaligurl

                                                                                    I went last night and didn't get your recs til today, but thank you anyway. I actually went with the hibachi and it was really good, albeit not one of my favorites. I think next time I am going to go with either the lemon chix or the orange chicken. I love the CF!

                                                                                    As a side note for anyone who hasn't tried the new Pistachio cheesecake.... its totally amazing!!!!

                                                                                    1. re: steakrules85

                                                                                      bf is all about that orange chicken... really good

                                                                                      1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                                        A few years ago, before all the hoopla about outlawing trans-fats and criminalizing carbs, I read about a restaurant that took the (then) groundbreaking step of adding the calorie counts of their food to their menu. This place was well known for its desserts, especially its chocolate cake. After not too long a while, they discovered that no one was ordering that chocolate cake any more. Even their regular customers who always had it told them that if they had known how many calories were in that cake, they would not have ordered it. Needless to say, the calorie numbers magically disappeared during the next menu revision.

                                                                                        As far as humongous portions are concerned, I am with a lot of you -- a card carrying member of the Clean Plate Club. I am also a notoriously slow eater, especially in restaurant situations, when I have someone else to talk to while I eat, so I often do eat a part of my meal at less than optimal temperature. I don't really have the self-control to box up half my meal before taking that first hot bite, but I do know that depending on the situation, I will (usually) take home the leftovers. I will however take exception to working girl's assertion that " Many people do not realize that it is ok to tip as if you had ordered your own entree, of course, only if you feel that the service was worthy" Most people dont think that way -- at least no one I eat with on a regular basis. Many people, especially seniors, are on some sort of budget, and will only tip on what they ate and drank (astounding, but true). (Someone else above wants us to tip on the expensive bottle of wine, but I will not go there,,, this has already been discussed at length in other threads.) Gee, I would have ordered that bottle of wine, but I don't want to drink that much. Should I tip the server as if I did? I dont think so.

                                                                                        The restaurants that will consistently get my business are those that offer me an option on the size of my entree, and allow me to order a smaller (or lunch size) portion any time of the day. It sounds as if the CF already does this for at least a few of its dishes. The server that doesn't give me an attitude for doing so is going to earn him/herself a more generous gratuity. THAT'S where my big tip goes.

                                                                                        Ive never been to CF but after all I read about them here, I am more curious than put off, and might just give them a try soon.

                                                                          4. It seems like everything that could be said on this has been, and replies are getting personal, so we're locking this.