The Cheesecake Factory operates nearly 300 restaurants throughout the United States, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Canada.
Last week, they sent a letter to their landlords informing them that none of their restaurants, including other concepts they own and operate, would pay rent on April 1.
So far, the chain has closed almost 30 locations and, in accordance with CDC guidance and orders from governors and mayors across the country, transitioned to limit other units to delivery and takeout service.
The Cheesecake Factory is one of the industry's largest employers, boasting a workforce of close to 40,000. The letter from CEO David Overton puts into stark relief the reality that the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging independent and chain operators alike.
Reaching out to landlords about an inability to pay rent can seem intimidating and it's understandable that many operators—from single-unit to multi-concept—may not know what to say. The letter, posted in its entirety below, serves as an excellent model.
March 18, 2020
To our Landlords,
We are sincerely concerned for everyone who has been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
As you know from news reports, we have had to close numerous restaurants in order to comply with emergency governmental restrictions. In some locations we are only allowed to provide delivery and to-go orders; in other locations we are required to totally close. This situation is unprecedented and rapidly evolving. The severe decrease in restaurant traffic has severely decreased our cash flow and inflicted a tremendous financial blow to our business.
Due to these extraordinary events, I am asking for your patience and, frankly, your help.Unfortunately, I must let you know that The Cheesecake Factory and its affiliated restaurant concepts will not make any of their rent payments for the month of April 2020. Please understand that we do not take this action or make this decision lightly, and while we hope to resume our rent payments as soon as reasonably possible, we simply cannot predict the extent or the duration of the current crisis. We are continuing to evaluate the implications of this situation on our business and we realize the impact this action will have on our landlords. We appreciate our landlords’ understanding given the exigency of the current situation.
We are following the guidance of the CDC and our local health departments and will continue to do so. We are closely monitoring developments in all the communities we serve, and we hope to resume normal operations as soon as reasonably possible.We commit to keeping you informed in furtherance of our long-standing business relationships.
Chairman, Founder and CEO
The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
While there's no guarantee that this letter or a similar one will have the desired effect, it's far better than an operator avoiding their landlord.