Summary List Placement
In 2014, I was a young, single woman growing my career as a freelancer in Austin. At the time, I was writing for free and paying my bills with various odd jobs like delivering groceries, working as a contract employee at a casting office, and, of course, waiting tables.
I’d worked for a couple of years at a small, locally-owned restaurant but business was slowing down, and I needed a more consistent flow of income from my serving job. A friend of mine had worked at The Cheesecake Factory for almost 10 years and raved about it.
He said the money was great, the culture of the company awesome, and that the people who worked there had become like family to him. I decided to give it a shot.
While my time at The Cheesecake Factory was short, I learned a lot about how the restaurant runs, what the dynamic of working there is like, and more. Here’s what it was like.
In my experience, it’s not easy to get hired at The Cheesecake Factory
I found that a position at The Cheesecake Factory is hard to get, probably because the restaurant is wildly successful and servers are nearly guaranteed to make money at almost every shift.
Other employees such as kitchen, bakery, bar, and front of house staff always had plenty of hours promised to them each week when I worked there so those positions are also sought after.
I was able to get an interview due to my friend since he had been a long-time employee, but some of the trainees in my group had told me they’d applied multiple times.
Yes, I had to memorize the entire menu
With over 20 pages of appetizers, entrees, lower-calorie options, cocktails, and cheesecakes, the menu at The Cheesecake Factory reads like a book.
As a server, you do have to memorize the entire thing. Training at The Cheesecake Factory is hands-down the longest and most rigorous training program I’ve been through at any job, let alone a serving position.
The training was two weeks long, with one full week dedicated to learning the menu when I worked there.
The company provided me with a giant set of flashcards to help you memorize the dishes’ look, names, and descriptions. Servers are taught how dishes are made and which include allergens such as gluten, dairy, and nuts.
At the end of the week, you take multiple written and verbal tests to ensure you can identify and accurately describe every dish on the menu.
During training, I got to taste most of the menu items
The upside to this long week of learning the menu is that trainees get to taste a large variety of the restaurant’s offerings, at least when I trained.
Every day during our two-week training, we were given a lunch break during which the group got to choose a handful of dishes to split. Each day was like a Cheesecake Factory buffet. We even got to sample all of the specialty cocktails, cheesecakes, and all the sauces and dressings offered at the restaurant.
There are regulations for nearly everything your server does at The Cheesecake Factory
As a diner, you may be surprised to find out that nearly everything your server does — from how many pats of butter you receive with your basket of bread to how much ice is put in your glass of iced tea — has been regulated by corporate policy.
I had worked for years at a casual neighborhood restaurant where every server had their own way of doing things, so I was shocked when I went into training to find out that every detail of the serving process had been outlined in the handbook.
At The Cheesecake Factory, they pride themselves on a consistent experience for the guest regardless of which location they visit or who their server is. So from the beginning, we were taught the Cheesecake way of doing things.
For example, I was told servers must always use a tray unless they are carrying only one item and they are always supposed to wrap up leftovers for the guest unless the diner specifies otherwise. Everything — down to the angle at which servers are supposed to slice the bread — was outlined during my training.
All of the meals are made to order with great care and fresh ingredients
Although The Cheesecake Factory may get some flack for being a chain restaurant, there’s no denying that the food is made with the utmost care and quality.
When I toured the kitchen for the first time at my location, I was blown away by the cleanliness, organization, and efficiency of it. The walk-in fridges of the restaurant are massive compared to the freezers because the restaurant simply doesn’t serve a lot of frozen items outside of ice cream and cheesecake. (All cheesecakes are made at a factory in California and shipped frozen to each restaurant.)
Nearly all of the sauces and dressings for every dish are made fresh and each item is prepared right when the customer orders it, ensuring any special requests are honored.
No, I didn’t get free cheesecake or food all the time
Unfortunately, working at The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t mean you get free cheesecake and entrees whenever you want.
Every employee had the option to get a free shift meal when they worked, however, when I worked there, you could only order from a limited menu. If you’d like to order anything else or buy food on your day off you receive a 50% off discount.
Occasionally, the bakery may have some extra cheesecake slices that can be given away, but it is up to the discretion of the bakery staff if they decide to do so or not.
Staff members get to taste new menu items before they are released
The massive menu at The Cheesecake Factory changes occasionally, and when that happens, employees are required to attend a restaurant-wide meeting where they taste and are quizzed on the new menu items.
This includes seasonal cheesecakes and cocktails as well as any changes made to existing dishes.
In my experience, servers had to work nearly every holiday and weekend and should always be prepared to stay late
It comes as no surprise that nights, weekends, and holidays are the busiest time at any restaurant. When you work at The Cheesecake Factory you have to be available to work at least some of those shifts each week and, per company policy, you are not allowed to request holidays off.
Special circumstances can get you more time off, but generally, every employee had to work at least one shift on big holidays.
In addition to working holidays and weekends, at the location where I worked, it was really hard to get off early on a busy night, even if you were scheduled to leave at a certain time. I almost always worked longer hours than the schedule dictated and getting shifts covered was difficult, because everyone else was working so many hours as well.
It’s worth noting that this is not uncommon in the restaurant industry and will vary by location.
I had to keep your uniform pristine white and ironed at all times
Only recently have The Cheesecake Factory servers been allowed to wear black pants and shoes. When I worked there, we were required to wear all white, head to toe.
It was extremely hard to find white jeans and white, slip-resistant shoes and even harder to keep all of them as clean as management required.
Before every shift, the manager gave a pre-shift meeting at which they checked the cleanliness of your uniform. Clothes had to be ironed and free of even small stains, ties had to be worn and tied appropriately, and hair had to be properly pulled back.
There were also regulations regarding facial hair, piercings, tattoos, and hair color.
The clientele of The Cheesecake Factory are stereotyped as bad tippers in the serving industry
When I was working at The Cheesecake Factory, I would hear jokes made by servers both at other restaurants I’d worked at and The Cheesecake Factory itself about the type of people who dined there.
Because of the restaurant’s decor, food style, and price point, it is not quite considered high-end but is also not-quite-casual dining. As a result, the general opinion of servers I knew was that a lot of the people who eat there use it as a special occasion restaurant but don’t want to pay a special occasion price.
In my experience, even with some bad tippers, I would almost always make good money working there, if only because the restaurant was always busy and the turnaround was quick.
National Cheesecake Day is the bane of a Cheesecake Factory employee’s existence
For customers, National Cheesecake Day is the best time to visit The Cheesecake Factory, because guests can get a half-price slice of cheesecake. However, for employees, at least when I worked there, it is considered to be the worst day of the year because of how busy the restaurant gets.
Often people go to the restaurant on National Cheesecake Day specifically for their cheesecake and little else. This is a problem for servers because as a result of very small tabs they typically get less in tips.
With so many customers coming in at once, the day can be really stressful and not very lucrative.
Many employees really love working there
Despite the strict regulations and long hours, many employees say they love working at The Cheesecake Factory.
When I worked there, many of the servers had been employed there for years, and nearly all of the upper management positions were filled by people who had moved up from hostess, server, and kitchen positions over time. The staff at the restaurant were all very close friends and hung out all the time after work and on their days off.
There was a popular saying, “Cheesecake rocks!” that would be said before shifts and used in positive social media posts about the company by people I worked with.
Now, there’s a hashtag #ImSoCheesecake where Cheesecake Factory employees post positive things about their experience at the restaurant.
The company routinely makes the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. Employees say they love the team-building events and celebrations, the way the company acknowledges employees’ achievements, the benefits provided, and the room for growth.
While the money is good, you have to be passionate about the service industry to enjoy working there
Ultimately, working at The Cheesecake Factory was not for me.
I made good money while working there, but I left the restaurant after a few months because I simply was not committed enough to the job or the restaurant’s culture.
Working in the service industry was not my passion: I wanted waiting tables to be a part of my life, not all of it. I often felt out of place among a restaurant of servers who were so committed to The Cheesecake Factory way.
If you’re looking for a community-style workplace with consistent business and passionate co-workers then The Cheesecake Factory may be a great option for you.
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