Cheesecake Factory has dress rehearsal prior to Orland opening
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org November 30, 2012 4:20PM
Heidi Cross, left, and Brittany Taylor work the front desk at the new Cheesecake Factory eatery during a pre-opening training day at the restaurant at 301 Orland Square Drive in Orland Park, IL, on Friday, November 30, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:25AM
It’s a dress rehearsal for the new Cheesecake Factory restaurant that will open Wednesday in Orland Park, and Tom Davis is worried that the music is too loud.
Davis, area director of operations for the chain, says someone is roaming the 9,400-square-foot dining room with a laptop computer, measuring each speaker’s output so that adjustments can be made.
“We’re going to find perfect,” Davis said.
From how plants are positioned to the taste of the fresh whipped cream on the restaurant’s signature cheesecake, no detail will go overlooked as employees prepare and serve meals to invited guests who, in exchange for a free meal, act as guinea pigs to help the company work out any last-minute glitches.
Hundreds of people were invited to each lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday at the restaurant on the lower level of Orland Square Mall near Macy’s. Their reaction will, in part, tell Davis and other Cheesecake Factory officials what needs to be tweaked prior to Wednesday’s debut.
Because customers in Orland Park might have previously eaten at the California-based chain’s restaurants in Oak Brook or Chicago — Orland is the company’s sixth location in the Chicago market — there is a certain expectation that has to be met, Davis said.
“We’re nervous about every opening. We don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “We have a reputation to live up to immediately.”
The new restaurant’s 270 employees have gone through three weeks of training, with Cheesecake Factory bringing in 55 designated trainers who work at the company’s other restaurants in cities such as Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles.
“These (trainers) are the best of the best staff members,” Jerod Martin, manager of new restaurant operations for the company, said.
Before hosting the invited guests Friday and Saturday, employees at the Orland location “had been practicing on each other,” Kerri Stallard, an area field training manager with the company, said.
For the dry run, employees are understandably nervous — Stallard calls it “positive anxiety” — but trainers are deployed throughout the restaurant to lend a hand and, without hovering, observe their technique.
The company operates restaurants inside of malls, such as Orland Square, as well as freestanding locations, according to Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations and brand management for Cheesecake Factory. She said Orland will be the company’s only Chicago-area location with an indoor patio, which juts slightly into the mall’s common area.
Davis said the company had been “looking for quite a while” to find a location for a Southland restaurant, and Rowe said the chain takes in factors such as population levels, demographics and the proximity of existing restaurants in picking a site for a new outlet.