Diners may be seeking out healthful options on the whole, but put a plateful of sweet-and-savory indulgence in front of them, and they will respond. “During the busiest hour during Sunday brunch service, there was one going out to the dining room about every eight to 10 minutes,” says Robert Okura, The Cheesecake Factory’s VP of Culinary Development/Corporate Executive Chef. In fact, sales of the Fried Chicken & Waffles Benedict are, in some parts of the country, more than double that of any other brunch item. “The guests’ response to this dish here in Southern California has been surprisingly strong and positive. As I traveled east and through the Southern states, its popularity became even more intense.”
The Benedict rollout was part of a larger winter menu change, aimed at attracting Millennials. “We created some healthier options like Avocado Toast, Grilled Veggie Melt Sandwich and Chicken with Kale-Almond Pesto and Lemon Couscous,” says Okura. “But to our surprise, the most popular dish by far has been our Fried Chicken & Waffles Benedict.” The dish combines a signature housemade Belgian waffle, crispy buttermilk-battered fried chicken and hollandaise. “They are excellent on their own and make for a great weekend treat,” he says. But the secret to the dish’s success just might lie in the drizzle. “When you pour our maple-butter syrup over these ingredients, something happens that changes everything. It becomes something altogether different that’s impossible to describe. It’s deliciously magical, a food moment that can only be experienced.” Certainly, the flavor combination must be doing something right. “We just introduced this dish with our most recent menu change, and it is the No. 1 selling item across the country,” says Okura.