David Overton, chairman and CEO, The Cheesecake Factory Inc.

Winner – Food Services

David Overton co-founded The Cheesecake Factory with his parents, Evelyn and Oscar Overton. The chairman and CEO created the company’s namesake restaurant to showcase his mother’s unique desserts and opened the first The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in 1978 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Overton has grown the company from its mom-andpop roots into a national chain and along the way, created two other concepts, Grand Lux Cafe and RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen. With a staff of more than 32,000, the company today is 170 restaurants strong with two bakery manufacturing facilities that provide cheesecakes and other baked desserts to its restaurants, as well as external customers.

Overton recognized two things early on — No. 1, his mother made the “Cadillac” of cheesecakes, and No. 2, his father’s door-to-door approach to selling the cheesecakes wholesale wasn’t growing the business fast enough. He came up with the idea of opening a restaurant to sell the cheesecakes directly to consumers. Although he lacked restaurant training and experience, he had the drive to turn his idea into reality.

From those humble beginnings, Overton went on to expand the concept with a second restaurant in Marina Del Rey, Calif., five years later. The third and fourth restaurants followed in 1988 and 1989, and in 1991, the company opened its first East Coast restaurant in Washington, D.C.

In 1992, the company went public with five restaurants. This year, the company celebrates two significant milestones: its 20th anniversary as a publicly traded company and the beginning of its global expansion in the Middle East. As an entrepreneur, Overton took on many risks in order to build and grow the business but has always let his instincts and passion for the company guide him.

How to reach: The Cheesecake Factory Inc., www.thecheesecakefactory.com