Financing

The Cheesecake Factory is launching a loyalty program

Cheesecake Rewards members will get access to reservations and free birthday cheesecake. The program is expected to go nationwide in June.
Cheesecake Factory loyalty
Tests of the loyalty program in Houston and Chicago exceeded the company's expectations. / Photo: Shutterstock

Fans of The Cheesecake Factory can soon make their adoration official by joining the chain’s first loyalty program.

Cheesecake Rewards will launch nationwide in June, the chain announced Wednesday. The rollout follows tests in Houston and Chicago that exceeded executives’ expectations. 

Members will get a free slice of cheesecake when they sign up and on their birthday. They’ll also get access to reservations—an attractive perk at a restaurant known for long waits.

And unlike many loyalty programs, customers won’t earn points, but will instead get surprise rewards sent to their account throughout the year.

“It won’t be a point-based program, it won’t be a spend-based program, more of a surprise and delight,” President David Gordon said during a call with analysts.

Cheesecake will use data it collects from its guests to target those rewards in hopes of driving incremental visits. If someone tends to come in only for lunch, for instance, the chain might send them a deal specifically tied to dinnertime, Gordon said.

Rewards will include both dine-in and off-premise occasions. Cheesecake is working with its delivery provider, DoorDash, to integrate the program into the DoorDash app, Gordon said.

The chain got strong engagement with the program during the pilot, which began in June in Houston and in November in Chicago.

“We’re happy thus far certainly with the [customer] acquisition side, but as importantly the actual use of the program,” Gordon said.

Guests seemed to particularly enjoy the reservations feature. “We've seen so far very good usage of something that doesn't cost us anything on the margin side, to be offering reservations to folks,” he said, adding that Cheesecake Rewards is designed to have no impact on restaurant-level margins. 

Loyalty programs have become common in the restaurant industry as brands look to drive frequency and collect information on their customers. Cheesecake Rewards is a first for the Calabasas, Calif.-based chain.

“We're excited to get started in June and use that data in a way that we haven't been able to before, since we never had a traditional [customer relationship management] program,” Gordon said.

In the first quarter, the 210-unit Cheesecake Factory generated same-store sales growth of 5.7% year over year. That included 10% higher pricing, 1% higher traffic and a negative 5.7% shift in mix. 

CFO Matt Clark said the performance is the closest the chain has come to matching its pre-pandemic trends. 

At sister concept North Italia, same-store sales rose 9%. It finished the quarter with 33 restaurants. 

The company also opened two new Fox Restaurant Concepts locations in the period—a Doughbird in Nashville and a Flower Child in Tucson, Ariz.—for a total of 35.

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