Why The Cheesecake Factory menu is so big

Anyone who has been to the Cheesecake Factory is familiar with their book-length menu. It's so long that you may want to decide what to order before you leave home, or you could be sitting there for an hour just trying to decide what to order! For first-timers, it can be overwhelming (or even stress-inducing) as you attempt to browse the entire menu before the rest of your party is ready to order, feeling like there's a countdown clock in your head until everyone else will be staring at you impatiently.

The Cheesecake Factory menu is 21 pages and contains a whopping 250 items (via Thrillist). Unlike many restaurants, the items don't really have a theme. It's not an Italian restaurant, but it has Italian food. It's not a Mexican restaurant, but it has Mexican food. It also has fried macaroni and cheese balls. The menu requires 700 ingredients and is made fresh every day, which includes time-heavy items like sauces and dressings. To accomplish this, food preparation begins each day at 6 a.m. (via Today).

The Cheesecake Factory menu started off simple

Interestingly, the menu was originally intended to be simple. The founder, David Marshall Overton, told Thrillist that he started the restaurant 40 years ago in Beverly Hills with the intention of creating a place for his mother to sell her desserts — cheesecake, obviously. "At first, we really just wanted a menu that lived around the cheesecake," Overton said. "I wasn't a chef... and I didn't want any chef we hired to walk out on me. So, I made sure that everything we served was something I could make myself."

To stick to this goal, Overton began the menu with burgers, salads, and sandwiches. He included home fries rather than French fries to compensate for the fact that he had never used a deep fryer. "We definitely had a fresh approach, but partly, that's because I didn't know what I was doing," Overton said.

How the Cheesecake Factory menu got so large

As the restaurant became successful, Overton would pay attention to dishes he ate at other restaurants, and then cater them to a casual dining style. People responded positively to the additions. Overton then worried that another restaurant would take his business if he didn't keep adding new menu items, so the additions just kept coming. Eventually, Overton embraced the idea of a huge menu: "Finally, I thought, 'Well, there's nothing that America wants that we shouldn't be able to put on the menu.' So we just kept at it."

In hindsight, Overton thinks he should have kept the menu smaller, but he didn't expect the restaurant to become a chain that would have to recreate the menu so many times. He has, however, capped the menu at its current 250 items. They will continue adding new dishes, but when a new one is added, something else will be removed.

Even with all the choices, the cheesecake remains the best-selling dessert.