On Cheesecake Factory, Advertisements & Class

“Your wait will be 20-30 minutes…”

Not a bad wait for a decent restaurant. Better than the Saturday night we attempted to go hoping the University of Tennessee home game that night would’ve kept the crowd at home. The wait that night was 2+ hours. Seems silly that anyone would wait so long at a restaurant in a town like Knoxville with so many other dinner choices around town but it’s not every day a Cheesecake Factory opens up.

We’d only been to a Cheesecake Factory once. Atlanta in 2008 after DragonCon. I remember being impressed but I can’t remember why. Maybe because it had decor I assumed to be standard issue for a “classy” joint but it was likely the 5lbs slice of cheesecake I ordered.

Either way we haven’t been back since there wasn’t one built anywhere nearby. Knoxville opened its Cheesecake Factory last year in the West Town Mall. Right away a red flag should be raised. I go to the mall to get down on some food court Chinese food, maybe some Cinnabon, Sbarro if I’m lucky. A mall is a place for a Ruby Tuesday or a Piccadilly so right away you’ve lost points.

My parents wanted to go there since they hadn’t tried one and I was wanting to hit it up again so I could get a valid opinion of it so we went last Sunday afternoon a couple of hours after the church rush.

While I had a great time with my family and left with my belly full of fairly-flavorful food, what I couldn’t get over was how I was bombarded with advertisement the moment I walked in. T-shirts that read “American Eagle” and “Hollister” pushing around through the crowd, bags reading “Victoria’s Secret” and “JC Penny” brushing up against the legs and hips of the people waiting at the dessert bar, all of which were likely picked up in the mall attached to the restaurant’s dining room.

After sitting down I noticed the crazy amount of advertisements that were built in to the spiral-bound menu. One page of advertisement per one page of menu in one of the most lengthy and diverse menus I’d ever encountered. We were crammed into a table nearly shoulder to shoulder with our nearest neighbors and when my head wasn’t buried into an advertisement in the menu it was looking up into another advertisement running on one of the many televisions above the bar. Knowing that I could take 20 steps out the front door and find myself well inside a Tommy Hilfiger store didn’t sit too well in my hungry stomach.

Still I wondered what kind of advertisements I would run in my own restaurant. Maybe an advertisement for my friends at 2 Ton Gallery? Maybe an ad for some of my favorite things like Peanut Butter? Nutella? Bananas? Coffee? Heavy Metal? Would this work on folks that dine at my house the way it likely works on the Cheesecake Factory’s patrons? Our parents are the only people that eat at my house so would it help turn my parents on to heavy metal? Would Erin’s mom and dad go get tattoos?

…because it nearly worked on me. During lunch I kept thinking about what stores in the mall I could be spending money at afterward. I wondered if we had dryer sheets at home? Wondered who I would use as a travel agent if I needed help planning a vacation? Why was I thinking about this sort of thing while having a nice lunch with my family that I don’t get to see often enough?

Because like the other patrons around me, I’ve been programmed to be told what to do / like / buy / be interested in based on pretty colors, striking fonts and ad campaigns. I’ve also been programmed to eat this frozen chicken patty atop stale ciabatta with some microwaved instant marinara sauce and call it classy only because it’s expensive. Now bring on the 5lbs cheesecake!

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