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The Road to Palm Springs


David Overton 
Chairman and CEO
The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated

Drummers can feel the beat, and David Overton, Chairman and CEO of The Cheesecake Factory (and a former drummer), can feel a good idea. That’s the secret of The Cheesecake Factory’s success — David’s unerring intuition for the intersection of concepts, people and food.

The Cheesecake Factory was started by David’s parents from a tiny seed: a recipe for cheesecake in a local Detroit newspaper. His mother’s version was so good, it spurred the family to start a cheesecake business in Los Angeles. Eight years later, David joined the business when he realized his music career wasn’t panning out.

Although it had enjoyed some success, the business would soon explode. David decided that the bakery needed a restaurant built around it to sell more cheesecakes. He claims his own naïveté was the secret to his success. He wasn’t a restaurateur and he had no mentors in the business — he just offered easy dishes he could cook himself, the way he liked them: simple, fresh and made from scratch.

And people responded in droves. David essentially created a new category of restaurant: upscale casual. And he has developed a culture of excellence, with the goal of “absolute customer satisfaction.” His employees are just as important. One of his goals is to model a business that will carry on — one that his employees can learn about and take into the world.

These days, David’s got that feeling again. This time he’s followed it to create two new restaurant chains: Grand Lux and Rock Sugar. And this year, The Cheesecake Factory is expanding globally, with 1 store in Dubai and another in Kuwait, with a goal of 22 more international restaurants over the next 5 years.