Times are tough for the restaurants industry as Americans stay home during the Coronavirus crisis. And for restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory ($CAKE) that rely mostly on sit-down, in-house clienetele, things soured quickly. That's why the chain said it will not be able to pay rent on April 1.

On March 18, Cheesecake Factory CEO David Overton sent a letter to all of its landlords — many of whom are the REITs we track — telling them that the Coronavirus has "inflicted a tremendous financial blow" to the business, and that "The Cheesecake Factory and its affiliated restaurant concepts will not make any of their rent payments for the month of April 2020." 

Those landlords include REIT bellweathers Simon Property Group ($SPG), General Growth Properties ($GGP), Macerich ($PRIVATE:MACERICH), and others. Of them, Simon Property Group holds the most Cheesecake Factory leases.

While losing rent income for a month — or longer — will sting players like Simon and Macerich, it's unclear which Cheesecake Factories will re-open once America emerges from the pandemic, which casts a bit more uncertainty as to the health of the various leases REITs hold with the restaurant chain. The Cheesecake Factory is doing what it can to free up capital, having already furloughed 41,000 workers and ceasing development of unopened restaurants in order to gain access to a reporteed $90 million in credit lines. Additionally, the chain has already closed 27 locations that it can't make sustainable by turning them into take-out and pick-up spots.

The Cheesecake Factory's prospects for a successful rebound are, of course, impossible to predict. However, social media followers have shown their love by following the brand on Facebook both in the hopes of survival and also to get news about locations that remain open. 

In the past year, Cheesecake Factory's Facebook following had been waning, but beginning on March 13 when restaurants first began shutting their doors, its follower pickup rate began accelerating. Perhaps that's a sign fans of the chain will be waiting with open mouths — and wallets — when it's safe to dine out again.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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