My attempts at trying the Cheesecake Factory go back to when I was in the U.S. a few months ago and couldn’t manage to find a table back then. I stood around, watching as servers shuffled around seemingly endless tables, carrying plates with enormous food portions. The cheesecake fridge looked great, but that was the extent of my experience at the time in early April.
Fast forward around 8 months, and the renowned American chain has recently opened up in Lebanon, in its continuing development in the Middle East, after opening up several branches in GCC countries.
Lebanon’s Cheesecake Factory is super busy. Wait times so far, even a week later, are still in the one hour range. They could rise even more. The hostesses were boasting yesterday, as they informed us we were lucky enough to only have to face a 20 minutes delay, that earlier that day some people had to wait three hours.
I have no idea why anyone would want to wait anyone for anything food related, and I’m really thankful I only had to wait 20 minutes to get my “Cheesecake Factory Experience, Lebanon style” because that was the maximum extent of my time – or anyone’s time – that such an experience deserves.
Me No Speak Arabic:
When your wait time is done and your buzzer vibrates for salvation, you get a very cheerful hostess – American style – take you to your seat. She gives you the menus, informs you in English that servers will be with you shortly and disappears.
So far so good. At that point, her English doesn’t feel out of place even though you’ve used only Arabic to communicate with all the employees, but no matter.
The server shows up. You ask them in Arabic about their recommendation, because the menu is barely readable with the super dim lighting in the place. They reply in English, sometimes borderline incomprehensible, but you try to maintain the conversation anyway. After taking your order, all forms of interactions with the server occur in English. That is you talk to them in Arabic and they reply in English.
When asked why they kept talking to me in English, their reply was that: this was the store’s policy. As I asked the manager about this, because it gets super annoying, and he said that the American head company has such a stipulation as a requirement to give customers the “American” experience.
Except we’re not American – sadly (unless the experience comes with a free passport) – and while many of us are bi or trilingual, there is absolutely no need to use any other language than my native tongue at a restaurant in my home country unless I wish to do so, and in most cases I do not, and I sure as hell did not want to feel like I was being rendered stupid by talking Lebanese to a server and being replied to in English, à la “get your language up to standards, sir.”
Perhaps this rule works best in GCC countries where most of the Factor’s customers are not native Arabic-speakers, but they desperately need to re-check this policy over here.
Overwhelmed Staff & Subpar Service:
Lebanon’s Cheesecake Factory boasts, according to the manager, more than 96 servers at an average of around 2 tables per server. You’d think with such a low ratio of tables to servers, you’d get excellent service.
It’s far from the case.
The huge number of servers leads to total chaos across the entire restaurant. You get to a point where you don’t know who you’re supposed to talk to in order to communicate a request or a complaint.
The level of the staff being overwhelmed is so high that there were serious shortcomings across the board. I’m not the only one who suffered from this, as several of my colleagues and friends also noted on their visits earlier in the week.
Perhaps it’s opening-week-jitters, but with the presence of staff from already-established Cheesecake Factory outlets to help in the launching phase, I don’t know how much of the service’s shortcomings can be attributed to nervousness.
Maybe it’s the language requirement?
Besides, the service is definitely not as “American” as you’d think it is. We got an aluminum foil piece in the item we ordered and no one reacted until, before paying the bill, we requested to see the manager to inform him about how horrible the experience was and about how we would most likely not visit again, not that they need our business anyway.
The Food Is Overpriced, But The Cakes Are Great:
I don’t know about the bloggers who were invited there for the opening, but if you go there as a normal civilian, you are looking at a bill that is above and beyond anything you’d pay at any other similar Lebanese restaurant, even if it’s American in origin.
In deciding what I wanted to order, I googled the best items of the Factory and found a bunch of results that agreed on a couple of chicken-based dishes, which I ended up ordering. While they food was good enough, it was definitely not worth the $24 price per dish that we paid.
The food is also extremely fatty. Even the “skinnilicious” menu is not that “light.” I’m still stuffed more than 15 hours later, and we were sharing.
The saving grace, however, is that the cheesecakes are great. Seriously. I really hope they offer a way for people just to buy pieces of the cakes without queuing. We ordered a couple different kinds and the “Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake” is God-send. Absolutely great.
Stay Away For Now:
My advice to you, dear reader, is to resist the urge and steer clear of that place until either the mania dies down, or the staff becomes better trained, or they become more accustomed to the Lebanese market and adapt accordingly.
Until then, I have to say I was severely disappointed and would not recommend this place to anyone who’d listen.
It’s nice for the country to bring business in, but I refuse to be taken for granted as a Lebanese customer who can’t wait to set foot in any given franchise, which is sad really because I honestly had high hopes.
Never trust the opinion of bloggers and P.R people who are invited for free at opening day (with all due respect to them as some of them are friends of mine).
Second, the no-arabic policy is stupid even IF I am fluent in English. I still think it’s insulting for the country.
Third, why aren’t the images loading? Are the paths to the files correct? Tested on both Chrome and Mozilla. Neither work.
I’m not self-hosted so it’s definitely not a me thing. :p
Oh thank God! I thought I was the only one who was unimpressed. Here’s what I thought:
1- The food was extremely greasy and buttery. I don’t think our stomachs are built for this kind of food. I only finished 1/2 the portion but my stomach was upset about it all day. Finally after an hour of suffering from a heart-burn, I vomited everything.
2- The waiters were running around in panic and it stressed me out. I wanted to get up and help them because they looked so anguished. Waiters should blend in the background of a restaurant, not be the main event. All I remember from my meal is staring at them running around like headless chickens.
It reminded me of the opening of Applebees and Fuddruckers. Now who remembers those restaurants anymore? No one. I think these “American experience” franchises should take their greasy food elsewhere. They’re not working out well here and I sure hope they never do. I’d hate to see us get used to such outrageous portions.
I can attest to #2 definitely.
They have a certain culture that they need to maintain… no wonder why applebees never worked ! I had a great experience
I do agree with you that some franchises should opt for more polycentric approach compared to an ethnocentric approach they currently adopt. However, assume you’re in a Chinese restaurant (Little China in Monot comes to mind) where ALL staff are of Eastern origin and you’re forced to speak english.
I’m not defending the franchise; of course it seems weird to speak only in english in a familiar place and familiar food, but my point is that it serves a purpose and if it’s part of the experience, it’s up to them to maintain originality or adopt to the host country.
Let’s hope with time they’ll be able to handle the operational troubles you shared. Nothing works from the first time, but if we learn from Fuddruckers, it’s that some concepts need fine tuning when expanding into new territories
Yes, but the waiters are Lebanese for the most part, not East Asian.
Hello… It’s a food chain, a diner, an American at that remember? What’d you expect? Maxime’s, Le Meurice? Bloggers can be a pain the ass…
To get my money’s worth? It doesn’t matter if the place is Malek el Tawouk.
Its quite ironic to talk about their English language…in your English blog….
Right. Because expecting a restaurant waiter to talk to you in your native language is the same as addressing an entirely difference audience in a language that is more accessible and more widely reaching.
تهانيّ الحارّة على المنطق الرائع!
Elie Fares, have you ever been to the U.S.? If yes, for more than 2-3 weeks?
Many Americans are very understanding when Lebanese cannot assimilate into the culture (or outside their 2 km comfort bubble) and inability to speak English.
There’s many Lebanese businesses in the U.S, that answer their phone and can’t speak English. Not a big deal.
I have. And those Americans would still be speaking their native language at the restaurant, not Spanish or Arabic because the establishment decided as such.
As far as im concerned my experience was far beyond great … its one the best standardized restaurants service & food in Lebanon.
Besides I have asked the manager why the waiters are speaking in English. He first answered me if customers want to speak in Arabic we will gladly do the same and then explained about The Cheesecake Factory culture.
Quick note: Never trust the opinion of a Lebanese blogger … perhaps he/she was jealous that he/she was not invited to the grand opening !
I had a perfect experience the Culrure was very well -maintained and I’m sure that will be the key of its sustainability… no wonder why applebees never worked !!
As far as I’m concerned, my experience was far beyond great…it is one of the best standardized restaurant in service , food & CULTURE in Lebanon.
Besides, I have asked the manager why the servers are speaking in English. he first answered me that if customers want to speak in Arabic we will gladly do the same and answer the same and then he explained about The Cheesecake Factory culture and the way it operates.
Quick note: Never trust the opinion of a Lebanese blogger…perhaps he/she was not invited to the grand opening !
So are you Lea or Mireille?
What were you expecting! This is the cheesecake factory worldwide! Fatty food that u wont be able to digest & cheesecakes that are extremely heavy! This type of food is not what Lebanese people are accustomed to simply. We are not Americans nor from the GCC.
First its true that some staff dont speak arabic (non-arabs) and its true that its the policy to speak in english but if you talk in arabic to an arab speaker he ll speak back to you in arabic. Our lebanese waiter was speaking to us in arabic the whole time.
The food is heavy, fatty, unhealthy but that is what you are going for.
It is not overpriced, that is to say it is not more overpriced than the restaurants in Lebanon. Its not cheap of course but the portions are huge.
Cheescake indeed is amazing.
I wouldnt recommend it to anyone who s looking for good, healthy, cheap, authentic food in Lebanon but i d recommend it to anyone who s looking to stuff his face with average food, and go in food coma afterwards. Ya3ni chilly s, applebees or cheescake factory. Same same
I had a great experience, great food and great service.
The plates were perfect and most importantly veryy tastyy. The value for money compared to the service you are receiving , the portion size and the taste is far beyonddd acceptable. Any burger from another dining restaurant has almost the same price but not to even compare with the Americana Burger at The Cheesecake Factory ! not to mention the Cheesecakes themselves 🙂
I’m sure The Cheesecake Factory won’t have any competitors !
By acting in this typical overbearing american way, they will ‘get’ everyone once but business is not built like that. We are a very discerning ‘resto-oriented’ society and have a desire to be treated with respect. To have to try and understand someone who is not fluent in English – particularly if you are asking for information – is not helpful. They will live and learn and prosper – or end up like many others – a waste of time – pity as I love their cakes.
Great point raised
for all defending the fact that the waitresses are responding in English despite being addressed in Arabic, with all respect, maybe you need to live abroad (live not just visit) you will understand how enlightened people defend their language against cultural invasion with all means .
Cultural experiencing/tasting is totally different,I love cultural cuisine, Indian cuisine is my preferred, I love the whole experience of being in a Indian restaurant, but I have never been in a cultural restaurant where the language was forced on me, the whole point is to bring the experience to customers(not force it on them, it’s counter-initiative) usually the menus are bilingual, the items on the menu are explained , and of course the waiters speak the whatever commonly spoken language in that region or country.
In Cheesecake Factory-Lebanon case, they are really stumbling on the basics, if I was in such situation, I would simply leave, I would do the same if I was addressed in Indian/Italian/Chinese.. in and Indian/Italian/Chinese… in Lebanon. and I would do the same if I was addressed in Arabic in a Lebanese restaurant in any country in the world (assuming they don’t guess I am Lebanese 🙂 )
Hope I was able to make my point.
Thank you for your honesty, Elie. Growing up in the US, my dad and uncles used to love taking us to the Cheesecake Factory, which is one of my least favorite restaurants… I couldn’t believe all the “positive” reviews it got from Blog Baladi, No Garlic No Onions, etc. The only good thing about the Cheesecake Factory is their cheesecake. Otherwise, the food is heavy and nauseating; the iced tea is sickeningly sweet, and the menu is way too big. Keep up the awesome job.
1. Its all about money . About business . This franchise business in gulf already proven HUGE success . Am not sure if i shall trust you or the numbers ? But whatever they are doing now, they are doing it right . Its already tanslating into high profits . So they need to keep it up .
2. Its a international franchise business, and as an international partner, following their standards is not optional.
3. Am not sure if you as a blogger would have a better view on operational standards vs. a group of experienced people who implemented this module .
No Arabic? In Lebanon? If a Lebanese restaurant opened up somewhere in the west and had an “Arabic only” policy so that customers would get the full Lebanese experience, it would cause huge outrage. This is coming from a guy who has been living in the west for over 10 years. Incredibly dumb and borderline racist policy.
I was there last week (Group of 6 ) we didnt like it
1- I went there a lunch time last friday and didnt wait a single minute. In fact there were a few empty tables around us ( we were 6 ).
2-The waiters do speak arabic except for the non-arabic ones.
3-Not THAT over priced but yes it is more expensive than other places. I think the price range is a bit more expensive than Chillis.
4- I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND simply because the food is extremely fatty and its just not worth the experience. Go enjoy a burget on Zeitouna or something , much better.
5- they have like 1000000 staff and yet the service is slow. Also the staff talk to you like you’re a complete moron. Hello Sir how are you, let me please show you your table….then another one was like Hi, I am ABC and just to let you know that X will today be your waiter… i was like ok wtf i dont need all that… then X comes in all happy and over smiling at a job he probably hates, takes your order, tries to help you out… did recommend some plates over others , disappears and food takes forever to be served).
Then you get the usual once or twice visit from the floor manager (or whoever the fuck this one is ) asked “is everything ok?”… seriously fuck off.
then on your way out you have like 10000 waiters telling you good buy thanks for coming and all that… seriously ktir over and its ridiculous.
We wont go there again, but it was just worth checking wtf all the hype was for.
I would definitely recommend skipping.
For all who have commented on this page and for those who are interested to know about the Cheesecake Factory; maybe I am so lucky to get to know some major facts about this awesome place that will certainly change your opinions:
– 1st Cheesecake Factory – Lebanon is a FRANCHISE of Cheesecake Factory – United States as is Dubai, Kuwait, KSA. The main objective of a Franchise is to bring to you exactly the same experience that you will get whenever you dine in at the home brand restaurant in the USA
– 2nd All Cheesecake Factory employees are Lebanese and locally employed and were trained by an international training team from different nationalities. They know Arabic for sure and they will be more than glad to reply to you in Arabic. However to be able to explain to you the ingredients accurately and give you a real cheesecake experience; they need to communicate in English ONLY to the guests who do not mind it!
– 3rd With respect to quality; the Cheesecake Factory uses premium quality items and imports 80% of the products from the United Sates for utmost taste and consistency
– 4th with respect to price, the average check at Cheesecake Factory is 25$ per person; taking into consideration the huge portions and the premium quality products used; this is even cheaper than any local American diner.
– 5th For those who had stomach-ache or those who threw-out. You do NOT have to eat the whole portion at once, you can take away the leftovers back home and enjoy it for dinner or lunch the next day.
– 6th Yes, the Cheesecake Factory dishes are heavy BUT Yummy! For sure it is not the place you need to visit if you are dieting. However, am pretty sure that there are many dishes that are healthy and you can choose among 250 choices offered. In addition to the Skinlicious Menu that includes many low cal items.
Am a Lebanese as well and proud to be one actually, but I wish from all those people who talk about civilization and development to open up a little more and act as civilized and developed and encourage such businesses and huge investors to open in Lebanon to be really developed.
Best of luck Cheesecake Factory; my experience was amazing and beyond my expectations!
First the servers are still on training and yes they r stressed out the trainins are watching every single detail… also u want to have the same experience like the one u got in usa .. so if ur talking to a server in arabic u can simply tell him … and at the cheesecake factory every guest is our guest .. our mission is 2 keep our guest happy and satisfy and at the same time we have responsibilty toward the company from rules and regulation … w la e7kiki bl 3arabi la tfhami 3layii wazafo 200 server and this is a plus 5afafo bataliii mn gher shi shabebna m3atara ne2e fiya b3d … for the decor its almost same as our nanyyy cheesecake factory restos….. ur such a typical lebaneseeee …
Is that the kind of English you are required to speak? You poor thing… 😢
Also I’m a guy. If you don’t know the name Elie is that of a guy in Lebanon, I wonder: where the hell have you been living? Under a rock?
Hello…well im a proud server in The Cheese Cake Factory which is a great job to work in…where u feel like you’re not just an employee working for someone…we are having more than what we deserve…its a great company and sure thing we love it…this american franchise is way better than most of lebanese companies…and about talking in english we absolutely will be glad to talk in arabic to who ever wants us to talk to them in arabic….the thing is that we want you to have the same experience that you’ll have when going to dubai,emarites,u.s and all of our franchise….our portions yea they are generous…well as you said you are paying 24$s for a plate….if its huge for 24$s what would you say if you’d have a smaller one…and the prices are great comparing to other diners in lebanon…you are having a bigger portion for the same prices and dont forget a healthier one…where you can ve sure that mr fa3oor won’t close it as other dinings you are enjoying eating in…beside our greet is for you to have an idea about our famous dishes because we have more than 200 items we dont wont you to get lost in our amazing menu and our cheesecakes are amazing…where will you enjoy a great and water melting desserts for only 10000 l.l or a maximum of 15000 l.l for as you said a huge portions…but we the lebanese love nagging sorry for this but this is the true we dont get satisfied in any way…and when you are leaving our resturant its lime you are leaving a family of a minimum 47 server ofcourse all of us are going to say goodbye and wish you had a great experience in our home…and yes there were some mistakes at the 1st week opening because it is something new in lebanon the first restaurant to get this crowded even in weekdays and it was new procedures for us but you can try it now…you’ll see the difference….believe me it’s a great restaurant to dine in with many choices…we have a place for everyone…the diet people you can try our skinylisious low calories and more healthier….the seafood people we have many specialities of sea food which you will enjoy salmons pastas with seafood and so many things…for the chicken lovers you’ll surely enjoy our so many different types of chicken plates or a combination of seafood and chicken in one plate…for the burger lovers we have what ever you need in a burgur bacon or b.b.q or classic and so many things….so when dining with us we’ll make sure that you’ll have the great experience of the cheese cake factory .
Well, reading this article I honestly think it was unfair to judge Cheesecake Factory on its opening day. I just came a week ago from USA/Ca where I reside and I was so excited to go and try it. Our experience was great! Staff were amazing and tried their best. I spoke to them in arabic and they replied w the same language. The dishes that we ordered were even better than when I ate them in the USA. Cheesecake was so yummy and my daughter enjoyed it so much ❤️. I think this review was unfair for the new franchise, give the staff time to get comfortable w the menu. Overall, my 1st experience last week was amazing. It was great CCF in Lebanon.
People go to American restaurants to eat American food not to practice their English language. Wa7ad burger baddeh 3azbak.
it is doing great in UAE !!!