BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The people have spoken – and they want more good food.

Last month city officials asked Bakersfield residents about their retail and restaurant wish lists, and just in time for small business week, they’ve provided us with the answers.

Cheesecake Factory, the Calabasas-based restaurant chain, reportedly plans to open seven new restaurants in 2023.

The message from Bakersfield is resounding: May we have one of them?

That is one of the more striking takeaways from the City of Bakersfield’s recent Retailers and Restaurants Survey, a poll that asked Bakersfield residents about their favorite local businesses and their degree of satisfaction with local options. You can probably guess the top dozen or so local restaurants most cited. All among, in no particular order, Luigi’s, Woolgrowers, Sorella’s, La Costa, Frugatti’s, Uricchio’s, Mexicali, Moo Creamery and Cafe Smitten.

Top vote-getters will be announced over the course of the next week, but the top-polling local retailers included Victoria’s Boutique, Going Underground Records, Sweet Surrender, Sugardaddy’s, Dewar’s, Emporium Western, Book Hounds and Copes Bait and Tackle.

More favorites will be released in the coming days.

But we want more, according to Jenni Byers, the city’s assistant economic and community development director, and we want one in particular. Out of 36 hundred survey responses, an astounding 26 hundred ballots – more than 70% – said they’d like to see a Cheesecake Factory, an upscale chain with more than 300 locations around the country, as well as 100 others with different branding.

City officials will use the survey results as part of a come-to-Bakersfield pitch to national and regional chains attending a Las Vegas trade show this month – the International Conference of Shopping Centers.

“What we do with the information is, we get at our baseline population … 400,000 (in the city and) our trade market has a million in the area. … We have a couple of sites we think (a Cheesecake Factory) would go well at, and identifying what is within a 15- to 20-minute drive time of that, providing also what the median income is. There’s a couple of arguments that we use, particularly because the media income here is lower than Los Angeles, but the cost of living is higher in Los Angeles. So really you try to demonstrate the affordability in the market and why it would be a good choice.”

Surely the Cheesecake Factory is flattered by the attention, right?

Well, Alethea Rowe, Senior Director of  Public Relations for The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated, had this to say about Bakersfield’s fond embrace: 

“Our restaurant development team is always on the lookout for premier sites to further grow The Cheesecake Factory brand presence, and all sites that fit our criteria for success will be seriously considered.”

In other words, they’ll apply the same standards – population size, demographics, competition, location and economic big picture, among other considerations, to any final decisions about Bakersfield.

But the city officials place a premium on locally owned businesses because $53 out of every $100 spent stays local, as opposed to $14 of every $100 for chains. 

“A local business is also going to contribute (to the tax base) themselves, because they are going to shop here locally and they are going to go to restaurants locally,” Byers said. “It’s important to note that the way we get our roads fixed, the way we do all of those things are through sales tax, and so it’s important to recognize who our important businesses are.”

It all helps, though, and desirable chains like Cheesecake Factory – and the number two vote-getter, LA-based Porto’s Bakery and Cafe – contribute to the positive sense of place every big city desires.

What else do we want?

Ikea, the home furnishings giant which already has a massive distribution center just south of Bakersfield, tops the retail list, followed by Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Bass Pro Shops and REI.

The focus this week is on locally owned businesses as perhaps it should be, but as Cheesecake Factory fans might note, it’s OK to dream too.