Casual dining chain, The Cheesecake Factory, is expanding abroad with 22 new locations in, of all places, the Middle East.
Casual dining chain, The Cheesecake Factory, is expanding abroad with 22 new locations in, of all places, the Middle East. - 
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Aside from a few parts of the U.S., odds are you live within close range of a Cheesecake Factory, and no casual dining restaurant sells more per location. Now, if you're a CEO in that situation, you'd consider expanding to markets beyond the U.S. For the Cheesecake Factory, that means 22 new locations in, of all places, the Middle East.

David Overton started the restaurant in 1978 as a place to retail his parents' cheesecakes, today he remains the CEO. He says more the idea sprang from a visit to the Middle East, "We were invited over...and when we saw the American brands over there doing so well, we thought it was a good idea...They do surveys quarterly and everytime they ask the question, 'what American restaurant would you like to see over here?', Cheesecake Factory for the last five years was always number one."

Overton says the restaurant has been popular since its founding and thrived by focusing on operating efficiencies, "a half hour before we opened our doors in 1978, we had a line that went to the next door...and so we became very good at operations so that we could try to keep some of the money that was waiting for us at the door."

As for the balancing healthy eating with the chain's famous portion sizes and dessert menu, Overton believes, "its all about choice." The restaurant has menu section marked "skinnylicious" for health conscious diners. According to Overton, "whatever America wants to eat, we have."

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Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich