Monday, August 05, 2013



A source tells me that The Cheesecake Factory will open a new location at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda.

The upscale-casual chain has an existing restaurant not far away, in White Flint Mall. However, White Flint Mall will be completely demolished within the next few years, leaving only anchor Lord & Taylor entact. Lord & Taylor has filed suit to stop the demolition; the first phase of demolition is already complete, including the former Bloomingdale's store.

Traffic has evaporated at the dying White Flint Mall, and this past weekend, the once-sizable crowds awaiting tables at Cheesecake Factory were nowhere to be found. Another large restaurant tenant at White Flint, Bertucci's, recently closed.

White Flint's loss is Westfield's gain. Once an also-ran in the dining category, Westfield Montgomery Mall is now getting perhaps the most popular restaurant in Montgomery County in The Cheesecake Factory. Another national chain, Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace, is already scheduled to open at Montgomery Mall in the near future.

While White Flint Mall owner Lerner gambles on Montgomery County's risky experiment to urbanize the suburbs, Westfield has instead doubled-down on the suburban indoor mall concept. The global mall operator has massively reinvested in Montgomery Mall, and is currently expanding its food court. A luxury movie theater is also under construction, and a new transit center will be added.

Two big questions:

Where will The Cheesecake Factory be located in Westfield Montgomery? Obviously, nothing is official at this time. One place to watch is the Old Navy wing of the mall. A number of stores recently relocated or closed, leaving a large space there. Nearby is Aroma Espresso Bar, with its new outdoor patio. Most importantly, there is a major outdoor mall entrance, which is what large restaurants like Cheesecake Factory want.

Second, how long will Cheesecake Factory stay open at White Flint? With the closure of Bertucci's, all bets that any large remaining restaurant would stay until demolition are off.

But it's fairly clear that the changes coming to White Flint have cost the neighborhood its top restaurant. So far, no restaurant coming to the "new" White Flint has the national name recognition or popularity of The Cheesecake Factory. It would seem extremely unlikely that a Cheesecake Factory would open in White Flint if there's one at Montgomery Mall.

This is another coup for Westfield, which is also getting a Norton snowboarding store and Tesla Store this year. Westfield's investment is putting Montgomery Mall in a more competitive position relative to regional draw Tysons Corner.


Anonymous said...

Cheesecake Factory is a chain restaurant. Have you ever been to Cheesecake Factory in Manhattan or Downtown D.C.? How about Center City Philly? You aren't going to find a chain restaurant like that in area's with chef driven restaurants and world-class food. That is what White Flint is going for I believe so Cheese Cake Factory needs to go.

Robert Dyer said...

I'm not aware of a single celebrity chef restaurant yet announced for the new White Flint. Paladar sounds like it will be a good place with something new and unusual. But all the restaurants are national chains, except they don't have the consumer recognition of The Cheesecake Factory.

Even when you have an urban town center, you need popular restaurants to draw foot traffic for the retail. White Flint had that with CF and P.F. Chang's.

Maybe Le Diplomate will open a White Flint outpost in the future. But for right now, there isn't anything on the boards that would rival Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that the location of a cheesecake factory in a mall is news.

Robert Dyer said...

It's big news.

Anonymous said...

The transformation of Montgomery Mall is big news. Sounds like Westfield is serious about competing with Tysons. New state of the art theater, restaurants and shops. Add in Tesla and other attractions.

Anonymous said...

Good. Keep those places off the streets and in the malls where they belong.