The Aptly Long History of The Cheesecake Factory

The history of The Cheesecake Factory could easily fill a 12-page menu.

Sometimes you just want to dine somewhere with endless options, most of which don’t seem to go together, but are tasty nonetheless. No, we’re not talking about diners. We’re talking about The Cheesecake Factory. You know, the place known for its delicious brown bread, its cheesecake, and that one Drake line. Long before Drizzy and suburban moms put The Cheesecake Factory on the map, it was a small basement operation.

It all started in Michigan in the early 1940s. Evelyn Overton, a home baker, stumbled upon a recipe for cheesecake in her local newspaper and decided to give it a shot. She nailed the recipe and it became her signature. Overton’s friends and family loved her cheesecake so much she decided to open a small bakery outside of Detroit. The shop doesn’t last for long, but that didn’t stop Overton from slinging cheesecake from her basement, selling to local eateries to help raise her two boys.

Overton’s kids were grown by 1972 and moved out of her house. Officially an empty nester, she and her husband packed up and moved to California. They decided to use their life savings to continue living out Overton’s dream: opening the Cheesecake Factory Bakery. Unlike the bakery in Michigan, the Cheesecake Factory Bakery was a success. The Overtons developed a dependable customer base in the Los Angeles area and things looked good.

Things were looking even better when Mrs. Overton’s curious and ambitious son, David Marshall Overton, started dreaming bigger. He wondered what would happen if they opened a whole restaurant based around his mom’s cheesecakes. A year later, they opened the first Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Beverly Hills. The eatery didn’t have the expansive menu we all know and love now, but it was pretty impressive. The Cheesecake Factory sells sandwiches, salads, and cheesecakes. Duh. 

By the early ‘80s, David was an accomplished cook and businessman, so he set his sights even bigger. The Cheesecake Factory opened more locations across Southern California with expanded menus. Like, seriously expanded. During their initial growth stage, David kept an eye on all the hot restaurants in his area. Whatever he saw people flocking to, he added it to The Cheesecake Factory’s menu. It was an interesting strategy for sure, but it seemed to work.

“... I didn’t want another restaurant to open down the block and take my business away. We just kept putting things on the menu that people seemed to like. Finally, I thought, ‘Well, there’s nothing that America wants that we shouldn’t be able to put on the menu.’ So, we just kept at it,” David said at the time. 

The Cheesecake Factory’s success didn’t slow at all when the ‘90s arrived. The menu kept growing, people kept coming, and The Cheesecake Factory started opening restaurants on the East Coast. By 1992, the restaurant went public and got a new look. For whatever reason the folks behind the scenes decided to go with an Egyptian theme, which has stuck to this day. Throughout the ‘90s, the restaurant grew in popularity among wine moms and people like Drake. More and more outposts opened across the country and the menu somehow got even bigger.

In the mid-2000s, The Cheesecake Factory had earned a massive following.  In 2011, the chain expanded internationally. It opened its first international location in Dubai, casually located at the bottom of an indoor ski slope. Around the same time, Overton decided the menu had gotten big enough. He capped it at a whopping 250 items, but The Cheesecake Factory continued to swap 10-15 items out for new items each year, which is a stellar workaround. 

Currently, The Cheesecake Factory is one of the most successful chain eateries in the world.

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it -- find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.