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Alina Lorenzo, a designated trainer, trains new employees at the Cheesecake Factory Thursday, November 29, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. More than 50 people were flown in to train new employees for the restaurant.

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Readying The Cheesecake Factory

ABOUT THE EATERY

* Location: Outside Sears at Hamilton Place

* Size: 7,500 square feet

* Seating: 200 inside, 72 in patio area

* Employees: 270

* No. of stores: Fifth in Tennessee

Source: Cheesecake Factory

 

The Cheesecake Factory has brought in more than 50 people across its network to help train its Chattanooga staff as the chain readies to officially open its first Scenic City restaurant on Tuesday.

"We're the most sophisticated restaurant company in the industry," said Cheesecake Factory spokeswoman Alethea Rowe on Thursday at its newest eatery located outside Hamilton Place mall.

Over the past day or so, the California-based company has offered complementary meals to select guests as it trains up its 270 employees.

Carmen Lindsey of Chattanooga said she came into the restaurant on Thursday to grab a take-out order.

"I work across the street," she said, adding that she expects to visit the restaurant often for lunch.

Kenya Isaac, also of Chattanooga, said at the restaurant that she's "absolutely" looking forward to its opening.

"I went to one in Atlanta. I know what it's about," she said.

The Cheesecake Factory is an upscale casual dining restaurant created in 1978. Today, the business is a $2.3 billion, global company owning and operating 213 full-service, casual dining restaurants throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

The average check for each guest, including beverages and desserts, was $21.85 in 2017, according to the company.

Average sales per restaurant in 2017 was $10.5 million, which is the highest in the industry, said Rowe.

She said the restaurant focuses a lot on training because it offers more than 250 fresh-made menu items.

"There's a lot there. No one has a dessert menu such as we own," Rowe said. "We want to make sure the staff has early support."

She said Cheesecake Factory picked Hamilton Place because it's the premium mall in Chattanooga.

"Chattanooga is growing," the company spokeswoman said. "There were a lot of requests to be here."

Sears already has announced it plans to close its Hamilton Place store, and the restaurant is the first part of the planned redevelopment of the store and its nearby parking lots, according to mall owner CBL Properties.

A Dave & Buster's restaurant, a hotel and office space is planned in the biggest redevelopment in the mall's three decades. Also included are more eateries, specialty tenants and a nationally known junior anchor store in a multimillion-dollar revamp, according to CBL.

Stephen Lebovitz, CBL's chief executive officer, said the company's vision is to transform its traditional enclosed malls into dynamic suburban town centers, and the Hamilton Place redevelopment is an example of the strategy.

In January 2017, Chattanooga-based CBL bought the Sears and the retailer's Northgate Mall auto site as the shopping center company looked to redevelop that space and the areas around them in the future.

CBL said then it acquired the two locations and was leasing them back to the retailer as part of a $72.5 million purchase and lease-back deal involving seven Sears facilities at CBL malls in six states.

Sears also has announced it's closing its Northgate Mall store. However, it's unclear what will happen to that location because the retailer owns that site, according to CBL.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreeepress.com or 423-757-6318 or follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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