When you think of The Cheesecake Factory, you probably picture a large slice of cheesecake on a white plate, drizzled with your favorite sauce or topping.
At least, that’s the initial image that pops into your head.
Once that image clears, though, you’re left thinking of the $25 pasta you usually order and the $40 check the waiter puts in front of you at the end of your meal.
That may leave you wondering, “Why is The Cheesecake Factory so expensive?”
Is it the food?
Is it the service?
Is it run by the Mafia?
This guide tells you everything you need to know.
Why Is The Cheesecake Factory So Expensive? (Top 12 Reasons)
There are many reasons The Cheesecake Factory costs a bit more than other chain restaurants.
Here are the Top 12.
You may not have considered some of them before.
1. Ingredients Are Expensive
When you’re comparing restaurant prices, it’s important to consider the cost of the ingredients.
While many restaurants use the cheapest ingredients they can find to keep prices low, The Cheesecake Factory takes the opposite approach.
They use higher quality ingredients (so the food tastes better), but they price menu items higher to help compensate for the extra cost.
In theory, the more expensive ingredients ensure the food tastes better, too, but that’s for you to decide.
2. Restaurant Overhead Is High
Restaurant overhead is notoriously high.
About one-third of a restaurant’s revenue goes towards labor costs, another third goes towards food costs, and the remaining third mostly goes to overhead.
The average restaurant only nets about 2 to 6 percent of profit each year.
In other words, The Cheesecake Factory is expensive because it has to turn a profit.
If they lowered menu prices but didn’t cut costs elsewhere, they wouldn’t make any money.
3. Customers Enjoy The Ambience
If you ask one of the customers why they come to The Cheesecake Factory, they’ll probably say “for the cheesecake, of course.”
However, many patrons also enjoy the restaurant’s ambience.
It’s a quiet, cozy restaurant with dim lighting and comfortable seating.
It feels more luxurious than most mid-range chain restaurants, and customers are willing to pay a bit more for that luxury.
Sure, it’s not a fine dining establishment, but it’s a little classier than, say, Applebee’s.
4. Demand Is High
This brings us to our next point: Demand is high.
Why does The Cheesecake Factory charge so much for their food?
Because they can.
If you’ve ever gone to The Cheesecake Factory, you’ve probably experienced a substantial wait time.
It’s not unusual to wait an hour or longer for a table on a Friday or Saturday night.
People want to eat here, and the high prices don’t seem to affect demand.
In the business world, it’s simple: If people are willing to pay more for your product or service, why would you charge less?
5. Pricing Is Competitive
Not only are people willing to pay the higher prices, but the menu items are usually priced competitively.
If you look at similar restaurants—Outback Steakhouse, for example—you’ll see entrees in the same price range.
While many customers find this range too expensive, others don’t even flinch.
They’re expecting to pay $20 for their entree, and they don’t mind dropping $40 for a hearty entree and yummy dessert.
6. Food Is Prepped Onsite
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant (or know someone who has), you know that most chain restaurants don’t actually prep the food onsite.
Instead, most items come prepackaged, frozen, or refrigerated, and they’re heated up in a microwave, oven, or on the grill.
This is particularly true for things that require a lot of prep work and ingredients, like soups, sauces, and similar items.
It’s somewhat surprising, then, to hear that The Cheesecake Factory makes most of their items from scratch on-site.
(The glaring exception, however, is their cheesecake, which comes frozen. It’s made in a factory and shipped to locations across the United States, so the taste is consistent.)
While this extra prep makes the food taste better (and fresher), it also costs a lot more for both labor and ingredients.
You can’t really compare frozen, prepackaged foods with actual food that’s made by hand.
It’s like comparing a Lean Cuisine with a casserole your grandmother made.
They’re not the same, and you can tell when you take a bite.
7. Waiting Tables Is A Demanding Job
Most people don’t consider a server’s salary when they look at menu prices because servers mostly work for tips.
Most restaurants pay servers less than minimum wage, and they’re expected to make the bulk of their money by providing excellent service to their customers.
That’s also true at The Cheesecake Factory, but many former employees say that The Cheesecake Factory is a more demanding job than most.
The menu is incredibly extensive—it’s practically a book—and corporate policies are somewhat strict as well.
Uniforms have to be crisp and clean, and servers are expected to follow specific guidelines for almost everything, from greeting customers to clearing plates.
Why does this affect prices?
Because most customers tip a percentage of the final bill.
That means most servers earn a salary that depends entirely on menu prices.
If a server works at Chili’s, the average customer probably pays around $15 or $20 for their total bill (if you exclude alcohol).
If the average tip is 15 to 20%, the server earns between $2.25 to $4.00 per customer.
If that same server works at The Cheesecake Factory, the average customer probably pays around $30 to $40 for their total bill (including dessert but excluding alcohol).
Their tips range between $4.50 and $8.00 per customer.
If the job is much more demanding than other serving positions, the company has to ensure their workers are compensated appropriately, and a higher menu price does the job.
8. Higher Prices Create Perceived Value
Of course, there is another reason businesses charge more for their products.
Many experts believe higher prices create “perceived value” for their customer base.
What does that mean?
Put simply, it means that if you charge more, people will automatically assume your product is worth more.
If The Cheesecake Factory charged $10 to $15 per entree (like Chili’s or Applebee’s), would their customer base change?
Some people think so, and this could be part of their strategy.
When you position yourself as a more expensive chain restaurant, you are also telling customers that your business is higher quality, and they believe you.
9. It’s Corporate Policy
If you think prices are higher at The Cheesecake Factory because corporate executives want to make more money, you’re probably right.
Who can blame them?
While we don’t have a statement from the CEO, every former employee paints the same picture.
The Cheesecake Factory wants to be a fine dining experience while still being attainable for most middle-class citizens.
If you look closely, all the signs are there.
The furnishings are comfortable, and there’s plenty of ambience.
Your food is usually served with a little extra formality, and all the linens are super crisp.
Your food has garnishes and flourishes, and the bread basket is really pretty.
While most people don’t consider it a high-class restaurant, they’re obviously leaning towards that feel and want to position themselves far apart from cheaper chains.
The higher menu prices reflect those same values.
10. It’s A “Special Occasion” Restaurant
While you may pick The Cheesecake Factory on a random Friday because you’re craving some delicious Key Lime Cheesecake, that’s not the reason most people go.
The Cheesecake Factory is known as a “special occasion” restaurant.
If your parents are taking you “somewhere nice” for your birthday dinner, your chances of eating cheesecake that night are pretty high.
It’s also a popular spot for graduation parties, anniversary dinners, engagements, and even after-prom.
These are events that are special enough to dress up a little and splurge, but not special enough to warrant Wagyu beef and champagne.
In other words, you want to feel a little fancy without the ridiculous price tag—and The Cheesecake Factory fits the bill perfectly.
11. It’s A Publicly Traded Company
In 1992, The Cheesecake Factory went public.
They sold stock to investors, and any publicly-traded company is required to disclose financial statements to its investors (and the general public).
Seriously, you can find all of The Cheesecake Factory’s financial statements on their website.
How does this affect their prices?
Well, it’s complicated.
When a company is private, it’s owned by a single person or small group of people.
The company’s executives only have to answer to the owners, whether they make money, break even, or lose money.
When a company is public, though, the stakes are higher—literally.
Investors want to know whether they are making money or losing money on their investment.
They want to know as much about the company’s finances as possible, and they want to earn a high return on their investment.
If the company doesn’t make money, stockholders don’t make money.
They’ll sell their stock, and the company’s value goes down.
What’s the easiest way to prevent this?
By making as much money as possible.
How can you do that?
By charging higher prices (amongst other things).
If The Cheesecake Factory lowered prices, they would probably have some angry investors.
That’s why you should probably expect price increases every year.
12. Inflation Keeps Going Up
Restaurant prices, like most prices, are tied to inflation.
If the value of money keeps going down, prices will keep going up.
It’s simple economics.
While most people say 3% is the average rate of inflation, it actually keeps going up.
In 2021, for example, the rate of inflation was over 4 percent.
To keep up with inflation, The Cheesecake Factory needs to raise prices by 4% (or more) each year.
This affects every business, though—not just The Cheesecake Factory.
You will see prices go up for every industry if you pay attention.
Groceries, gas, makeup, fast food—every business has to raise prices to keep their profit margin stable.
How To Save Money At The Cheesecake Factory
If you are hoping to save a few bucks next time you dine at The Cheesecake Factory, this is your lucky day.
The restaurant isn’t really known for its special discounts or coupons because that goes against their aesthetic and branding.
However, you can enjoy a good meal and keep costs down with a few of these tips.
1. Skip The Salad And Appetizer
Nothing makes a bill skyrocket faster than a salad or appetizer.
It’s hard to skip these little extras, especially if you’re hungry, but it’s one of the easiest ways to keep the bill low.
The small plates are incredibly tiny when you compare them to the average entree, and the price tag is substantial.
If you just can’t wait for your food, opt for the Factory Nachos.
They can feed a few people, and the price isn’t too steep.
2. Split An Entree
Going with friends?
Ask if anyone wants to share an entree.
Most of the meals at The Cheesecake Factory are fairly large and can easily be split between two people (as long as you’re not too hungry).
It’s like getting your meal for half price, especially if you don’t like to take leftovers home.
Bonus: This is a great option if you’re on a diet, too.
If you have a whole entree on your plate, you’re more likely to eat all of it.
When you split an entree, though, the kitchen normally divides the food between two plates.
Because you only have half the food on your plate, you eat less. It’s simple science.
3. Take Advantage Of Happy Hour
If you really want to save some dough, hit The Cheesecake Factory during Happy Hour.
This is usually from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, so you’ll have to come straight from work if you want to take advantage, but it’s totally worth the hassle.
During Happy Hour, most drinks are $6.95 (or less). Even better, The Cheesecake Factory includes appetizers on their Happy Hour menu.
While we normally recommend skipping apps, you can order two or three during Happy Hour for the same price as a regular entree.
Consider ordering several appetizers and splitting them with your friends to get the most bang for your buck.
4. Come On National Cheesecake Day
Dessert is one of the most expensive parts of any visit to The Cheesecake Factory.
However, we don’t recommend skipping it because it’s also the best part—even if it isn’t prepared onsite.
To save money on cheesecake, you need to come on its holiday: National Cheesecake Day.
This holiday rolls around in July each year, and the restaurant normally offers a special deal or new cheesecake flavor to commemorate the occasion.
Past deals ranged from 50% off cheesecake to a charity donation with every purchase.
Keep an eye on The Cheesecake Factory news to see what they are offering this year.
5. Order Water
Of course, there’s another way to save money on any meal: order water.
Alcohol is very overpriced at restaurants with some of the highest markup of any item on the menu.
Soda is also super expensive for what you get.
Water, however, is usually free, and it is much more hydrating than alcohol or soda anyway.
Save yourself $3 to $15 (or more) by ordering a little H2O.
Then spend the savings on dessert.
Restaurants Like The Cheesecake Factory
If you decide you would rather skip The Cheesecake Factory altogether, here are a few similar options.
The prices aren’t necessarily lower, but the food and experience are somewhat comparable.
1. Outback Steakhouse
You may disagree, but Outback Steakhouse is a lot like The Cheesecake Factory.
The ambience isn’t quite as good, and the menu is nowhere near as impressive, but they have other things in common.
The food is mostly fresh at Outback, and entrees are pretty large.
They also have a lot of good drinks and desserts.
Booths are large and comfy, and the restaurant attempts to offer a nicer overall experience than other chains.
2. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Sharing a parent company with Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s is another option, especially if you love pasta.
Most people consider this restaurant a step up from Olive Garden, though not nearly as good as an authentic Italian restaurant.
Entrees are around $20 a plate, and they also have drinks and desserts.
The ambience is nice, too.
3. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
If you’re craving Asian food, P.F. Chang’s may be the best locale.
They have a wide range of entrees in the same price range as The Cheesecake Factory, and the ambience is nice, too.
It’s definitely more upscale than your local Chinese takeout restaurant.
Chuy’s is a Tex-Mex restaurant with delicious drinks and a variety of entrees.
It’s a little cheaper than The Cheesecake Factory, and it’s a lot louder.
However, it’s more of an experience than your local Mexican restaurant.
If you go, try the Creamy Jalapeno Cilantro dip.