Tampa’s Outback Steakhouse plans up to 100 small eateries

The next generation of Outback Steakhouses will be smaller. It will have new technologies and more space devoted to transport, delivery and even catering. And it might appear in places you wouldn’t expect.

After pivoting to take-out at the start of the pandemic, then raising menu prices to keep pace with supply and labor inflation, Tampa-based Outback will adopt a style restaurant plans in key markets like Florida, executives told investors on a quarterly earnings call Friday.

“While we were very sad to see what came out in the restaurant industry during COVID, we came out in a much stronger place, so our opportunity for unit growth is now quite good,” David Deno, CEO of Outback’s parent company, Bloomin’ Marques, said on the call. “And if you look at the cities where we are still very strong in the South, there are still new opportunities for unit expansion. So we’re looking at 75 to 100 new Outbacks in the United States, and hopefully over time we can continue to make progress in this area.

Small restaurants have already been tested in Brazil, a major Outback market. There are about five in the United States so far. Deno described Tampa Bay as a prime candidate for new stores, alongside cities like Miami, Dallas, Austin and Nashville.

“Florida is a huge priority market for us, especially the Tampa Bay area,” Deno said in a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Weather. “You can have an Outback 10 miles away, but due to the growth of commercial areas and density, we can drive to a restaurant. Tampa-St. St. Petersburg is a prime example.

The new restaurants will be approximately 5,000 square feet in size, compared to an average of more than 6,000 today. It will have brighter, redesigned bar areas and a space dedicated to off-site dining, which made up 26% of Bloomin’ Brands revenue at the start of 2022. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would offer catering services at nearly 500 restaurants nationwide.

Related: Take-out orders have tripled at Outback owner Bloomin’ Brands since the pandemic began

Each restaurant will still serve an average of 200 customers, with some space savings in the kitchen and other back room areas. And new restaurants will adopt new technologies already coming or in use in existing Outbacks, including portable ordering devices and simpler cooking grills.

This rendering shows a design for a smaller Outback Steakhouse, as envisioned by Tampa-based parent company Bloomin’ Brands. The company plans up to 100 slightly smaller restaurants with a greater focus on transportation and delivery in 2022, 2023 and beyond. [ Bloomin’ Brands ]

The biggest change might be where restaurants appear. Instead of new locations, Outback will look to set up in closed dine-in sites in high-traffic retail areas with a “primary, primary location,” Deno said.

Switching to existing hulls is expected to reduce construction costs by 20% or more. Over the past five years, the company has moved about 50 restaurants, said Mark Graff, Bloomin’s senior vice president of business development and financial planning. These stores have seen their sales increase by more than 35%.

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“Importantly, we did this without compromising the customer experience or the number of tables,” Graff said.

These restaurant shells are more common than they were before 2020. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 90,000 restaurants have temporarily or permanently closed since the pandemic began. Outback and its franchisees operate more than 1,450 stand-alone restaurants and kitchens globally, about as of 2019.

“We’re going across the country and refreshing these restaurants as we speak,” Deno said. “We will continue to do so in the years to come. And so between that and the new units, we think we can have a high mark compared to where it is today.

This rendering shows a design for a smaller Outback Steakhouse, as envisioned by Tampa-based parent company Bloomin' Brands.  The company plans up to 100 slightly smaller restaurants with a greater focus on transportation and delivery in 2022, 2023 and beyond.
This rendering shows a design for a smaller Outback Steakhouse, as envisioned by Tampa-based parent company Bloomin’ Brands. The company plans up to 100 slightly smaller restaurants with a greater focus on transportation and delivery in 2022, 2023 and beyond. [ Bloomin’ Brands ]
Related: Outback Steakhouse Trail Menu Prices Again, According to Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Outback posted revenue of $1.1 billion in the first three months of 2022, up from $987.5 million a year ago. The company also reported higher net income and earnings per share and increased its forecast revenue for the year by about $50 million.

Bloomin’ Brands stock opened at $23.50 on Friday, up $1.50 a share from Thursday’s close, though it stabilized below $22 at 1 p.m.

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