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Sep 25, 2006 03:38 PM

Cheesecake Factory and the Downside of Gargantuan Portion Sizes


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.


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.


                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.