To Karie Friling, The Cheesecake Factory's opening was much more than an opportunity to dine at a casual restaurant or to chose from 40 varieties of cheesecake.
Friling, Orland Park's development services director, sees the new restaurant in the lower level of Orland Square Mall's east wing — one of only eight openings this year by the suburban Los Angeles-based corporation — as a testament to the village's strong demographics and the region's buying power.
It also hasn't hurt that the national economy is prompting top-level retailers and restaurateurs like The Cheesecake Factory to take a second look at mature markets, or that village representatives conducted a tenacious marketing campaign, she said.
The restaurant, which has locations on Chicago's Magnificent Mile and in Lincolnshire, Oak Brook, Schaumburg and Skokie, has seating for 255 in Orland Park. The 9,400-square-foot space is on the small side of the 7,000- to 15,000-square-foot range found at the more than 160 locations nationally.
Friling said Orland Park, with 57,000 residents, has "phenomenal" demographics — age, income, educational level and employment — plus it is in an "850,000-population trade area" and particularly attractive to national retailers and restaurateurs.
The list of recent additions to the village's retail and restaurant population includes Dave & Buster's, which mixes dining, drinking and games, Bonefish Grill, the Dry Goods clothing store, the Tilted Kilt sports bar, and Whole Foods supermarket.
Friling said top retailers and restaurateurs, who may plan new locations more than a decade in advance, began turning their attention to mature markets like Orland Park and away from high-growth areas like New Lenox after the housing market curtailed construction.
Friling said the village opted to take a direct approach to marketing its assets.
"A national broker doesn't know Orland Park like we do," she said, meaning representatives of the village make contacts with top retailers and restaurateurs at national and regional trade shows, as well as on a personal level. They go armed with such stats as the 11.7 million square feet of commercial space in the village, its less than 4.1 percent vacancy rate and the municipal government's stability and clear building codes.
"It takes time to build a relationship," she said.
And a thick skin when the initial response is "no."
"We don't accept that at face value," Friling said. "Our response is, 'OK, what will it take for you to talk?'"
She seizes on success stories, such as the November opening of Whole Foods in the former Borders store. They "had their best opening," in their history, Filing said. "There's no doubt they're going to knock it out of the park."