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Jan 6, 2010 08:25 AM

SD Chefs and Dining in SD

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    1. Honestly, the food scene in San Diego is abysmal short of a couple of bright spots. It's the main thing that keeps us from moving back to San Diego. You don't have to be New York to have a really quality food scene at all price points with consistency and quality service. And you don't have to be all chains- To name a few cities that do it right: New Orleans, Louisville has a nice up and coming scene, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia (I can keep going)

      1. re: chetatkinsdiet

        Part of the problem is that our city is generally in denial about its shortcomings. If you say anything negative about our food scene it's not usually appreciated. It makes me wonder how much traveling the boosters do. Whenever I go to San Francisco, it's always a crushing disappointment coming back here, and it's annoying because there are some places here that do great stuff, that have no problem staying in business. Plainly there is an audience here for good food.

    2. Sadly, we live in a place in which the highest grossing restaurant is The Cheesecake Factory.

      Will San Diego ever develop it's own food identity? I would love to say yes, but just like our football team, I sense our little town will always miss the culinary boat by a few minutes for many years...

      17 Replies
      1. re: Dagney

        Do you have the numbers on that claim?

        1. re: DougOLis

          No, I read it in a article a couple of years ago.

          1. re: DougOLis

            Found this, it's an excerpt from a transcript of Cheesecake Factory's call with investors over their earnings:

            "We still have some of our highest-grossing restaurants, San Diego, Sherman Oaks in California, even though, if you mix in the ones that are deep in the Inland Empire, those were the ones hit the hardest by gas, unemployment, and where they have even 11% unemployment. So, Southern California, with its housing problems is weaker; Northern is not, but we still have many $13 million, $14 million, $15 million restaurants even though all of them are down a little bit."

            I don't know why you'd find it hard to believe. I think it's really easy to believe. Think about it: it's in a very busy shopping mall, it's mid-priced, they're known for dessert so people probably spend $20-25/head when they go, they're open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, and there's always a line to get in.

            Have you ever seen a line to get in anywhere else in SD besides Hodad's or Red Lobster?

            Sadly, I have no problem whatsoever believing Cheesecake Factory is the top grossing place in San Diego. If anyone can find more complete stats I'd love to see them.

            1. re: Josh

              Just a nitpick, but weren't Red Lobster's halcyon days in the 70s and 80s? I've never seen a line at the Red Lobster restaurants I drive by on a regular basis (Mira Mesa and Sports Arena), though it could just be timing.

              And to answer your question, I don't think I've ever driven by Phil's BBQ and didn't see a line. [snicker]

              1. re: RB Hound

                Phil's, right. Forgot about them. I've seen lines at Red Lobster in the Grossmont area, and in Chula Vista.

                1. re: Josh

                  Got another one for you, Josh - the Cheesecake Factory's Asian twin, the place that has the best Chinese food in San Diego - PF Chang's.

                  1. re: RB Hound

                    It's all about the lettuce cups.

              2. re: Josh

                I hate to get involved in the good food/bad food debates about San Diego, but doesn't that call transcript imply that one of the The Cheesecake Factory's highest grossing locations is San Diego, not that San Diego's highest grossing restaurant in The Cheesecake Factory (which is what Dagney was trying to claim)?

                We have our gems here, and I'm glad we do. We try to support the ones we love, but that would take a lot of eating out. Even if we had a food scene to rival the top cities, I'm honestly not sure it would change my dining frequency.

                1. re: leanneabe

                  "The Cheesecake Factory's highest grossing locations is San Diego, not that San Diego's highest grossing restaurant in The Cheesecake Factory"

                  If there highest grossing location is San Diego, then it is not a stretch to believe it is the highest grossing restaurant in San Diego.

                  "Even if we had a food scene to rival the top cities, I'm honestly not sure it would change my dining frequency."

                  It would change mine. Immensely.

                  1. re: leanneabe

                    No, you're right. But I was posing it because when Beach Chick mentioned George's was top w/ $9 million in gross sales, if Cheesecake Factory is posting sales in excess of $12 or $15 million at their top locations, of which San Diego is one, then they're obviously raking in a substantial profit here. I would be hard pressed to imagine any other restaurant in town taking in excess of $1 million per month.

                    I don't think my dining frequency would change, but there are places I would certainly not go any longer if better alternatives like I've had elsewhere were here.

                    1. re: Josh

                      Josh, I've got one word for you - Phil's

                    2. re: leanneabe

                      "I'm honestly not sure it would change my dining frequency." - At least for me my dining frequency in SD would definitely change.

                2. re: DougOLis

                  I heard it was George's but that was several years ago with over $9 million in gross revenues per annum...

                    1. re: DougOLis

                      I'm not- look at the square footage that George's operates in compared to a cheesecake factory

                    2. re: Beach Chick

                      I think that may have been true several years ago, but the economy has taken a toll on Georges (as well as countless others). It used to be impossible to walk in and get a table immediately, now - pretty much instant seating. Also, they are advertising. That was always a big no-no in Mr. Hauer's playbook.

                3. For the record, I apoligize if I offended anyone here; certainly not my intention.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Dagney

                    what you talkin about willis?

                    the sad truth is you're probably right with the Cheesecake Factory being the #1 gross revenues restaurant in SD.

                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Beach Chick, I posted the following on a different thread last night, and the numbers I found actually estimate that George’s did $12.5 million in gross sales in 2008. My contention was that Cheesecake Factory’s success isn’t necessarily a sad commentary on San Diego’s dining options:

                      Based on Cheesecake Factory’s 2009 3Q financial statement, they’ll likely average around $10 million per unit (including Grand Lux Café) in gross revenue for FY 2009, nationwide. Plus, of the restaurants on R&I’s 2009 list of the 100 top grossing independents in the USA, based on 2008 sales (the lowest of which did $11 million), 56 are in New York or Las Vegas; many are steakhouses, seafood houses, or well known local institutions (George’s is on the list at $12.5 million); LA’s top grossing independents are Lawry’s and Gladstone’s; and only a small number on the list are highly regarded by chowhounds .

                      My point is that in the top restaurant markets in this country Cheesecake Factory/Grand Lux is among the highest grossing operations, and that it outsells all but a few chowhound favorites in the major markets. So, popularity, measured by sales, of a restaurant like Cheesecake Factory in a given market isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether that market can appreciate quality dining.

                      R&I List:

                      1. re: beantowntitletown

                        Just as a note, if you're going to do things this way you need to do it in a $/sq ft calculation to put restaurants on par. Gross sales is very different depending on the space utilization.

                        /geeky finance nerd.

                    2. re: Dagney

                      I think we all have pretty thick skin by this stage. Ha.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        I'm still busting gut on your classic comment about the fusion Eritrean/Guanian place in Coronado!