They have a lot of classes and lectures, guest speakers and award ceremonies. One of the most impressive is where they announce the Restaurant of the Year. They award one Cheesecake Factory and one Grand Lux Cafe the honor. There are several criteria the restaurants have to meet to even be nominated...and I won't bore you with details...but it is a accumulation of sales, profit, attrition, customer service scores, cleanliness scores, mystery shop scores, etc. etc. Each Regional Manager picks a store from his region that he thinks should be nominated. All the stores are presented to the Board of Directors, and they are fought for and whittled down until about 5 Cheesecakes and 2 Grand Luxs remain. The remaining stores are presented and fought for again, and then everyone leaves except the Board, who make the final decision on the winners. No one except the Board...not even David Overton, the founder and owner of The Cheesecake Factory Inc., know the decision until it is awarded.
So at the Award Dinner, Jason found out that his restaurant had been nominated along with the Las Vegas #1 location. Now keep in mind that just getting nominated is a HUGE honor...especially for Sawgrass Grand Lux. See, Sawgrass was opened during the Katrina aftermath. Business was so bad that they couldn't even open the entire restaurant. It has struggled ever since. A lot of managers have gone there to "turn it around" and burnt out in a few months. Then they called in a rookie GM...my hubby. In three years, he's helped the store turn completely around until they actually got nominated for Restaurant of the Year.
Jason knew that he wouldn't win against Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a beast...it's the busiest restaurant in the entire United States. It's open 24 hours, and pulls in almost $28 million a year. To give you some perspective...Jasons store makes about $10 million a year. A super busy Cheesecake Factory (the kind with 2-hour waits on a Friday or Saturday night) makes between $16-$18 million a year. So Las Vegas has a real strong pull...sometimes it's been credited with pulling the entire company out of the bowels of the recession.
Besides the competition, Jason was just really excited to be NOMINATED. So imagine his surprise when the announced the Restaurant of the Year for 2009 as Sawgrass Mills...HIS restaurant.
He did it. He actually BEAT Vegas.
EVERYONE was totally shocked. But no one more than him...except maybe the GM of Vegas. I guess he had a hard time picking his jaw up off the floor after he heard that they'd lost to Sawgrass.
So - for winning...the store got a very nice plaque.
And Jason got a cool crystal cheesecake (which is the size of a real piece of Cheesecake).
Personally, I think there should be $$ involved...ya' know...a nice, big bonus check. But what do I know?
One of the perks of being a GM with The Cheesecake Factory Inc. is the company car...a BMW 325i. All the GMs get one...and it's upgraded every 36 months. It just so happens that Jasons 36 month mark was THIS month, September, so he got a new car. He got to pick the color and interior...and he went with jet black and tan leather. It was delivered right after he got home from the Conference...a brand new 2009 BMW 325i with just 21 miles on it...and although he would have gotten it even if he HADN'T won...it was still nice to come home to a new car.
I gotta admit...it's pretty sharp. I like it better than the old one...mostly 'cause this one has an iPod dock. So if you see a jet black Beamer streakin' down the freeway...look close to see if I'm driving it...I'll be looking for every excuse possible to leave the minivan behind and take that baby for a ride...
I just can't get enough of that new car smell...