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Cheesecake Factory to make debut overseas

Brand the latest casual-dining chain to push international growth

The Cheesecake Factory is taking its brand overseas for the first time through a licensing agreement that calls for 22 locations throughout the Middle East over the next five years, the company said Monday.

The Cheesecake Factory said it has signed an agreement with the Kuwait-based Alshaya group, which will open locations of the casual-dining brand in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The agreement also includes the opportunity to add other markets in the Middle East, North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey.

“We are excited to announced a significant step forward in the implementation of our global growth strategy through the development of The Cheesecake Factory brand restaurants in international markets, beginning with the Middle East,” said David Overton, The Cheesecake Factory Inc. chair and chief executive.

The Cheesecake Factory joins a growing number of U.S. restaurant chains that have set their sights on international markets while slowing domestic growth.

While many quick-service brands have pushed international expansion in recent years, those in the casual-dining segment are now shifting gears to accelerate growth in emerging markets.

Darden Restaurants Inc., for example, signed a deal last year with the Kuwait-based Americana Group to develop the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains across the Middle East.

EARLIER: Darden maps overseas expansion

Brinker International said last year its growth would focus on developing its Chili’s Grill & Bar concept in other countries, and Morton’s Restaurant Group and California Pizza Kitchen both recently opened units in China, with more to come.

Overton said in a statement that The Cheesecake Factory was among the U.S.-based brands consumers in the Middle East wanted the most in their local markets.

The Alshaya group is described as a family business founded in 1890 that operates more than 55 retail brands in 15 international markets, including Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Pinkberry.

Alshaya has plans to add more U.S. restaurant concepts to its franchise and licensing portfolio, including Texas Roadhouse, Potbelly Sandwich Works and Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory said.

Mohammed Alshaya, chairman of Alshaya’s retail division, said in a statement: “We are delighted to be the company’s initial licensee to develop and operate this outstanding restaurant concept internationally. The quality and popularity of The Cheesecake Factory brand, coupled with our local market expertise, as well as our track record of launching and operating high-profile American brands in the Middle East, produces a winning combination.”

The Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based casual-dining company operates 149 Cheesecake Factory units across the United States as well as 13 Grand Lux Cafés and one RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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