In July 2011 the Center for Science in the Public Interest compiled a list of the unhealthiest meals served at chain restaurants based on the food’s fat and sodium content. The Cheesecake Factory’s Farmhouse burger was among the list’s “winners.” The burger is topped with smoked pork belly, cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a fried egg. Add in fries and the meal reaches 1,990 calories and 4,670 milligrams of sodium.
Perhaps not coincidentally, just weeks after the list came out, the Cheesecake Factory announced a new menu that features 50 dishes under 590 calories. The name of this new menu? SkinnyLicious. The Huffington Post mocked the new menu by pointing out the following notes:
“1) The restaurant is named in honor of cheesecake, a famously fatty dish — anyone who goes there for a healthy meal is woefully misguided.
2) A good way for the Cheesecake Factory to reduce calories is to cut down on its massive serving size, rather than re-jiggering dishes.
3) Skinnylicious is the worst name ever. If you want a hamburger, get a hamburger. If you want a SkinnyLicious hamburger, you shouldn’t be surprised if your dining companion laughs at you.
4) If you really want to lose weight, don’t go out to eat. If you choose to go out to eat, don’t rely on restaurants to guide you toward appropriate food choices based on lame-sounding marketing gimmicks.”
The Cheesecake Factory has followed Bethenny Frankel’s footsteps by selling its own lower-calorie cocktails. The new menu is even a different shape than the old menu. It is taller, thinner – a stark contrast to the short and squatty menu with all the “fat” food.
“It’s something America wants,” says CEO David Overton. “When you’re in this business you have to please as many people as you can.”
His statement appears to true. I recently went to the Cheesecake Factory at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey and asked my waitress about the popularity of the new menu. She explained that, in her experience, only women order from the menu, but that a lot of women order from it. I went ahead and ordered the SkinnyLicious hamburger but impulsively added American cheese and then substituted my salad for fries.
“Now, that’s not skinny!” she said to me. Unfortunately, statements like those are becoming every more frequent and create a negative association between consumers and their body image.