We, at The Cheesecake Factory, strive to achieve excellence in everything we do. For us, the notion of excellence means more than serving delicious food and providing an unparalleled dining experience. We understand that to be truly excellent we must contribute to the wellbeing of our staff, local communities and the rich environment we all share. We are committed to doing what is right, conducting ourselves with integrity and ensuring that our actions follow the highest ethical and professional standards.
We embrace sustainability with these values in mind. For us, the term “sustainability” informs how we operate in relation not only to the environment but also to the food we serve, the staff members we employ, and the communities in which we are located. Becoming a sustainable company requires an open mind and a lot of hard work and patience. No company is 100% there yet! Every day, and at every level of our business, we continue to find ways to reduce our impact on the planet. We ask tough questions about how and where we can improve. These conversations force us to challenge the status quo—to innovate sustainably and look for ways to reduce our impact.
We continue to examine all aspects of our business in an effort to identify, create, and implement meaningful and sustained change. Currently, our sustainability efforts are focused on our Company-owned restaurants, offices, and bakeries in the USA. As we expand globally, we intend to engage with our international licensees to both encourage sustainable practices appropriate for the environment in which they operate and to learn from their successes.
We are always looking for ways to improve the design and function of our restaurants and offices and to reduce our use of natural resources like energy and water. We are currently exploring green building techniques and materials in our LEED Platinum certified training center in Calabasas, CA and in our nine LEED certified or LEED developed restaurants across the country, as well as testing several energy reduction projects.
Waste is a big part of our overall footprint and a key area of focus for us. Managing and eliminating waste can be a challenge for an operation such as ours, where we are making dishes from scratch using fresh ingredients every day in each restaurant. Nonetheless we continue to improve waste diversion across our restaurants. In 2018 we were able to divert approximately 22% of our waste stream away from landfills. Additionally, we have undertaken several new initiatives in 2018 and 2019 to further reduce waste and are continuing to see strong results from several past initiatives.
As a part of our commitment to sustainability and recognizing our leadership position in the restaurant industry, we partner with a number of organizations and companies in order to work collaboratively on sustainability and bring solutions to scale within our industry. Some of our key partnerships include:
World Animal Protection (WAP) is a leading animal welfare non-profit that works to protect animals around the globe. We have partnered with them to help implement our animal welfare policy, including developing strategies, resources, and guides to help us better engage with our supply chain.
Monterey Bay Aquarium – Seafood Watch Program (SFW) is the leading program helping businesses and consumers choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean. We are working closely with SFW to better understand the impacts of our seafood sourcing and to transition our seafood to “best choices” and “good alternatives”, as well as eco-certifications recommended by SFW.
Liberty Shared works to prevent human trafficking through legal advocacy, technological interventions, and strategic collaborations with non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) and corporations in Asia. We are working with Liberty Shared to help advance our social justice and sustainability efforts. Additionally, we were glad to support the work of both Liberty Shared and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch in developing a new Seafood Slavery Risk Tool. The Seafood Slavery Risk Tool was created to give businesses in the seafood, foodservice and financial industries credible information about the risks of forced labor, human trafficking, and hazardous child labor in the at sea portion of seafood supply chains.
Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) is a part of the National Restaurant Association and its Converse Green program. We are working with a number of other organizations and other restaurant companies in partnership with FWRA to better understand ways we can reduce and divert food waste from our operations.
As a “Mission Partner” to Feeding America®, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief organization, we donated more than $4.6 million to this organization since 2008 and continue to work with this important organization on an ongoing basis. For example, each year, we dedicate a portion of our proceeds from one of our featured cheesecakes to Feeding America. Additionally, each September, staff members across the country support “Hunger Action Month,” Feeding America’s month-long campaign to bring awareness to and help fight domestic hunger, by donating peanut butter to local food banks. In 2018, our generous staff members donated more than 267,000 pounds of peanut butter to the cause.
Local Giving: Our restaurants participate in a Gift Card Donation Program, providing gift cards to local schools and charities for fundraisers and auctions. Since formalizing our Gift Card Donation Program in 2007, we have donated more than $8.3 million in gift cards to our local communities.
Collaboration: Thinking beyond the actions of our own company, we are partnering with a number of other companies, NGOs, and many fellow restaurateurs to pursue sustainability solutions that we, alone, could not accomplish. We are always looking for partners who are interested in working with us to build a more sustainable future.