#1 Consumer Pick in Casual Dining

We are proud that our client, The Cheesecake Factory, was voted #1 in Casual Dining by consumers!

While the Casual-Dining segment continues to find itself under pressure as fast-casual restaurants chip away at its more upscale and expensive positioning, it does retain its power when consumers want a heightened experience during a dining-out occasion.

Consumers in the annual Consumer Picks special report cited Atmosphere as the standout attribute of Casual- and Fine-Dining brands, giving it emphasis after the highest-rated qualities for all restaurants — Food Quality, Cleanliness, Service and Value.

The Cheesecake Factory, the No. 1 Casual-Dining chain for the second consecutive year, understands that distinction.

“We really strive to immerse our guests in an overall experience that creates a sort of energy in every one of our restaurants, really touching all five of [customers’] senses,” said David Gordon, president of the 165-unit, Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based The Cheesecake Factory. “That energy is very vibrant and alive. People are attracted to that feeling. We design the restaurants to take people out of their everyday routines and put them someplace special.”

This year’s No. 2 and No. 3 brands swapped places from the 2012 survey, with the 167-unit Bonefish Grill taking second place overall and pushing 204-unit P.F. Chang’s China Bistro to a third-place finish. Bonefish, a division of Tampa, Fla.-based Bloomin’ Brands Inc., earned top marks for Food Quality and Cleanliness.

“Casual-dining consumers have more choices than ever before,” Gordon said. “As that range of choices has expanded from not just casual sit-down restaurants but to fast casual — many of which can deliver a delicious product faster than traditional casual dining but with the same level of quality — the marketplace for casual dining has grown.”

Gordon said that traditional casual dining has to offer more than ever before “because everyone is fighting for today’s consumer’s discretionary dollar, and that dollar is tighter than it has ever been.”

The Cheesecake Factory took the top spot in the attribute rankings of Menu Variety and Reputation.

Aware that dining-out consumers are looking for a special ambience, the casual-dining segment has seen numerous brands introduce a number of refreshed and reimaged restaurants in the past year.

For example, in April of last year, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based P.F. Chang’s expanded its corporate Triple Dragon initiative systemwide. The program focused on driving menu innovation, improved service, lower-priced dining options and reimaged restaurants. P.F. Chang’s went private last year in a deal with Centerbridge Partners L.P., a New York-based private equity firm.

At the time, P.F. Chang’s chairman and chief executive Rick Federico said many of the ideas for the unit makeovers came from changes at a reimaged unit in Irvine, Calif., and in market tests at locations in Arizona and Dallas-Fort Worth.

The Melting Pot, the fondue-themed chain based in Tampa, Fla., which ranked as the No. 4 Casual-Dining chain in the Consumer Picks survey, took top honors for Atmosphere, Craveability and Service. The Melting Pot has 133 units in the United States.

LongHorn Steakhouse, the 390-unit division of Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., was a wide leader in the Likely to Return attribute rankings and placed No. 7 overall.

Cheddar’s, the 132-unit chain based in Irving, Texas, garnered first-place finishes for Value, by a wide margin, and Likely to Recommend, more narrowly. The brand ranked No. 8 overall.

“We’re serving a need that I think has always been in casual dining: People are looking for a great value,” Tom Koenigsberg, chief brand officer for Cheddar’s, said. “Over time some of our competitors got away from that, unfortunately. Our founders were committed to value as a mainstay of how they go to market, and they’ve kept price increases to a very, very low level. Our guests respond with loyalty, and they use us often because they can afford us.”

Koenigsberg said atmosphere also remains an important component of Cheddar’s popularity.

“We’re not really a theme restaurant,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of items on the wall that are trying to take guests to another place — not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’ve chosen to go with quality materials and things that are more timeless: brick, stone, hard woods, copper.”

That, he added, gives Cheddar’s a bit more of a classic image.

“Our need to refresh our restaurants is a little bit abated because it doesn’t become as tired,” Koenigsberg said. “You are not focused on memorabilia but on the food. That allows us to focus on the food and the people.”

Some attributes of casual dining will always endure, he said.

“It’s the aspect of service that can’t be replicated at home or in fast casual,” Koenigsberg said. “That can be a positive experience, especially at a reasonable price.

“When you put customers in an environment that is nice,” he concluded, “it really enhances the value experience and, therefore, the dining equation. We plan to stick to those key tenets.”

 

 

 

Back

What Clients Say About Patrice & Associates

  • Helen Nourai THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!

    After being COVID laid off in 2020; I spent the next year floundering, and looking for work. I had my resume up on all the different sites, and applied to anything that was even close to a good fit. No luck, and very few calls or email responses. Until one day out of nowhere Helen contacted me. Helen was extremely personable, positive, and prepared. After speaking for some time, completing the initial introductions, and basic information. Helen already had a position in mind for me. I sent her all of my relevant documents, and she worked her magic. Just a couple days later she emailed back my beautifully reworked resume, and double checked that I was ready for her to submit to potential employers. Then things went very fast! The next day on a Tuesday I had 2 phone interviews. Then Thursday another interview with the Director. Helen kept in touch every step of the way; calling even when I had forgotten to keep her posted. Then the General Manager contacted me on a Saturday followed by the VP!! Less than a week after Helen had submitted me I had completed the interview process, and was waiting on an offer pending reference & background checks. Helen, again was in amazing communication with me. Discussing my needs from the offer to ensure that when the offer was made; it included everything I wanted. It worked out exactly like that too! In the midst of the whirlwind offer that was exactly what I wanted (something I've never experienced before), and all the different company leaders reaching out to me. Helen was right there with me too. Checking in, sharing in my excitement, and giving me all her congratulations. Again, I had never experienced a hiring process with this much of a personal touch before ever! Definitely never one that was this smooth, and fast. If the Company went a day not talking to me, Helen was on it and reaching out to push the process forward.
    13 months of the unconscionable COVID under employment; with all the stress, worry, and insecurity, doing anything and everything to scrape together as many dollars as possible, to finally land a dream position that is a perfect fit, in my ideal location, industry, and salary. It is all still so unbelievable, and I know Helen was more than a major player. She was the key! The difference maker! I cannot express my level of gratitude for her help, and perseverance. Helen is the most gifted recruiter I have ever interacted with, and should I ever be looking for work, Helen will absolutely be my first call.
    Much Gratitude,
    Ben Whetstone
    Helen Nourai THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!
  • Jonathan Litt is a wonderful person and great recruiter!

    Thank you for all the assistance you provided me during my job search. I appreciate the information and advice that Johnathan Litt had given, as well as the connections you have shared with me. Your expertise and help have been invaluable during this.  I’ll never forget your help and your friendship, you are one and only one, thanks again.
    Sincerely,
    Shahriar Lou Mehrdad
    Jonathan Litt is a wonderful person and great recruiter!
  • I’m still in awe of Gary Kinsinger's abilities!

    It has been such an honor to work with Patrice & Associates, but more specifically with Gary Kinsinger. I’ve worked with recruiters in the past, however none as detail oriented and diligent as Mr. Kinsinger. From the moment he initially reached out to me, all the way to my first day in my new position, Gary was and is still very present in making sure my comfort and needs are met. I truly can’t put into words how beyond grateful I am to have worked with Gary. And with no doubt in my mind would recommend his services to anyone in the market. Gary matched me with the role of my dreams in just one and a half weeks. Thank you so much, Gary Kinsinger!
    Best,
    Angela L DeFalco
    I’m still in awe of Gary Kinsinger's abilities!
  • Kathy Helfand is a true asset to Patrice & Associates

    I worked with Kathy Helfand and I was very lucky to have her help getting me placed with an amazing company. She was there with me every step of the way from the interview process to even the follow up after I started the job. She knew from the beginning what the client wanted and was able to place me where she knew I would be a great fit. I am very grateful for everything she did to help me on my way!

       

    Thank you,

    Daniel Nichols

    Kathy Helfand is a true asset to Patrice & Associates
  • Shannon Wilcox was absolutely amazing throughout the whole recruitment process!

    I have never met such a professional and dedicated recruitment person. I cannot thank him enough for his full support, for believing in me and for helping me start a new chapter of my professional career within just one week! Shannon, you are brilliant at what you do.
    Sincerely,
    George Acosta
    Shannon Wilcox was absolutely amazing throughout the whole recruitment process!