- The Cheesecake Factory began taking limited reservations a few weeks ago at all of its 206 restaurants across the country, president David Gordon said during a Wednesday earnings call with investors.
- The company allocated a certain amount of tables available for reservations throughout the week, which are available through Yelp, while letting guests know that they can always walk in, he said.
- "One of the biggest hurdles for our guests can be our long wait times," he said. "So we're hoping this additional convenience will encourage guests who are more pressed for time to dine with us."
While reservations in the casual dining space aren't particularly unique — TGI Fridays and PF Chang's offer the service — The Cheesecake Factory is using it as a way to improve guest wait times and encourage more dine-in visits. Other casual chains, including Outback, Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel, offer call-ahead seating where customers can join a waitlist online or call before arriving to save a table at a certain time, usually the same day.
The Cheesecake Factory is notorious for its long wait times, which are sometimes hours long. Reservations add a level of predictability to allow for operators to plan proper staffing levels and can result in better service and additional revenue. At the same time, reservations can be tricky, especially if customers don’t show up or arrive late, and lead to a lack of flexibility because of how long a customer stays at the table, among other challenges.
The strategy also aligns with Cheesecake's recently acquired North Italia restaurants, which it bought along with Fox Restaurant Concepts in 2019. North Italia, which accepts reservations, boasted 4% comp sales during the fourth quarter.
Comparatively, same-store sales were up 0.8% for The Cheesecake Factory during 2019, compared to 1.7% in 2018. The Cheesecake Factory has been keenly focused on its off-premise business, which made up 17% of its sales during the fourth quarter, according to the earnings call. It also saw year-over-year growth in its online ordering platform for pickup, so the addition of reservations at all of its restaurants will add another channel for guests to engage with the restaurant in an easy way, and help drive sales and traffic.