Getting your just desserts in the restaurant industry is a rite of passage. Hot spots fade. Troubled chains buckle. Restaurateur fame is like a bold aperitif -- it packs a wallop, but then bows out before the main course arrives. That's why Cheesecake Factory's(Nasdaq: CAKE) sustainability may baffle the fickle mind.

The upscale, casual dining chain has posted 42 consecutive quarters of same-unit sales growth. In other words, it has been able to squeeze more money out of the average location every quarter since its 1992 market debut.

And, no, there's nothing average about an average Cheesecake Factory location. Each unit produces at least $2 million in free cash flow on roughly $11 million in annual sales. The chain's consistency has been so inspiring, in fact, that it's featured in our selective Stocks 2003 collection.

Last night, the company reported a healthy close to its 2002 fiscal year. Earning $0.96 a share on $652 million in revenue represents a little better than 20% growth in both areas over 2001's strong results. Set to add another 14 units to its existing 59, no apparent speed bumps lie ahead to break up the chain's winning streak.

Why? It's not just its commitment to grow new sites by 24% in 2003. Five of the 12 locations opened in 2002 actually came on line in the last quarter, offering an easy revenue catapult through the first three quarters of 2003.

The company also continues to make inroads beyond its 25-year-old namesake. Leading foodservice provider SYSCO(NYSE: SYY) -- only a phonetic relation to Cisco(Nasdaq: CSCO), even though they both cater to servers -- has expanded its relationship with Cheesecake Factory to provide other restaurant operators with its baked goods. While its bakery foodservice business is small and less glamorous than the flagship dining star, it has been a steady grower since Cheesecake Factory moved its production into bigger digs seven years ago.

Investors may be disappointed that the company simply met its fourth-quarter targets, and didn't devour them. That's fine. Clear the table. Just make sure you leave room for dessert.