Consumer Reports gives high marks to Outback, Carrabba's, Bonefish and First Watch
Several area-based restaurant chains -- Tampa's Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill and Bradenton's First Watch -- get two thumbs up in the just-released surveys in the July issue of Consumer Reports. (Outback photo by Thomas M. Goethe of the St. Petersburg Times.)
Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse fares well in a steak tasting competition. Consumer Reports says it sent two "trained testers" to Morton's The Steakhouse, Outback, Applebee's and TGI Friday's -- a total of 12 restaurants in five states -- to order a medium-rare New York strip steak plus cheaper cuts for comparison.
While Morton's got an "Excellent" grade for its 20-ounce steak, it cost $53. Right behind was Outback with a "Very Good" for its 14-ounce, $22 steak. (Applebee's at $18 and TGI Friday's at $17 were both "Good".) Here's Consumer Reports take on Outback:
"Although Morton's strip steak bested the rest, Outback's was very good and cost far less. It was also consistent in quality from one location to another."
In the Consumer Reports survey, based on 70,403 consumer responses to the Restaurant Satisfaction Survey, Outback received a 78 reader score, putting it on par with the comparably priced Bugaboo Creek Steak House, below the comparably priced Black Angus Steakhouse (score: 81) but above the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon (score: 77). Outback is part of privately held OSI Restaurant Partners in Tampa, which also controls such chains as Carrabba's Italian Grill (which did well in the "Italian" category of the survey with an 83 score) and Bonefish Grill (tops in the "Seafood" category with an 84 score).
First Watch (see photo of employees), founded in 1983 in Bradenton, ranked first (score: 86) among 23 restaurant chains in the "Family" category The chain bills itself as the "largest privately owned, daytime-only restaurant company in the country." It operates more than 75 restaurants in 11 states, including six in the Tampa Bay area stretching from downtown Tampa to Clearwater to Wesley Chapel. (Photo courtesy of First Watch.)
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist