Details are scarce, but the program is set to start next year.

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants — especially dine-in chains — to rethink the way they did business. Everyone had to turn their focus to carry out and delivery. But more outside-of-the-box found favor as well. A number of big name brands like Chuck E. Cheese and Applebee's launched spinoff ghost kitchen brands. TGI Fridays opened a "Butcher Shop," selling marinated meats people could cook at home. And at The Cheesecake Factory, the company said that the new marketing approaches they were forced to take inspired them to launch a rewards program.

During their earnings call yesterday, The Cheesecake Factory broke the news of the new plan. "Pre-COVID, we were evaluating upgrades and enhancements to our marketing and technology platform, including the potential launch of a rewards program to drive our next-generation marketing strategy," President David M. Gordon explained. "The success we had driving sales and frequency through targeted campaigns during COVID reinforced our view that now is the right time to move forward with these initiatives. We completed a significant amount of consumer research to develop a program that is on-brand for The Cheesecake Factory and our guests, and we are targeting a launch next year."

Cheesecake Factory restaurant
Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Unfortunately, the company said they couldn't provide any additional details of the reward program, other than Gordon later adding that it "won't be necessarily similar to what's happening across the industry." But the program was the first initiative Gordon mentioned and was discussed half a dozen times during the call, so clearly it's not a passing fancy. And he later stated that they would "have more details to share as we get toward next year."

Regardless of the specifics, however, The Cheesecake Factory did seem to imply that a rewards program could help them on two fronts: both bringing reluctant customers back into restaurants while also retaining customers who have gotten used to eating at home. CEO David Overton stated that there was "significant pent-up demand to dine at our restaurants across the country." But later, Gordon also clarified that "there's no reason why we won't be able to use rewards in a targeted way, and if we make a decision that we want to target off-premise opportunities as we did throughout COVID, we'll have the flexibility to do that."

Or to put it another way, the rewards program could potentially help them have their cheesecake and eat it, too.