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Outback to move up to 100 restaurants to better locations

TAMPA — Seeking to increase sales, Outback Steakhouse plans to relocate up to 100 restaurants to more desirable spots in the next few years.

Liz Smith, chief executive officer of Outback parent company Bloomin' Brands, said Wednesday that the Tampa-based chain will move 10 to 20 restaurants this year, following the success of some recent relocations. On average, those restaurants saw a 40 percent boost in sales after relocating, partly due to the addition of lunch hours.

The changes will help the restaurant chain compete better in the fast-changing casual dining market, Smith said during a quarterly earnings call with analysts.

Smith declined to say which locations will be affected but said several factors have been taken into consideration, from the leases left on the properties to the potential for new lunch business. Outback started serving weekend lunch in October and offers weekday lunch at many locations nationwide, including most in the Tampa Bay area.

Newly modeled restaurants will not be moved as part of the multiyear plan, which involves only U.S. locations. The chain has 769 Outback restaurants in the United States and 206 in other countries. Last year, Bloomin' relocated restaurants in Fort Myers, Kendall and Daytona Beach.

The news comes after a strong first quarter for the chain, which also owns Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Roy's. Total revenue was up 3.5 percent over last year to $1.1 billion, despite concerns about the elimination of the payroll tax cut, rising gas prices and delayed tax refunds. Customer traffic was up 2.2 percent.

In the first three months of the year, Bloomin' has opened 10 company-owned locations: seven Bonefish Grills, two Outbacks in Korea and one U.S. Outback. It also renovated 15 Outback restaurants. A total of about 80 renovations are planned for the entire year.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Outback to move up to 100 restaurants to better locations 05/01/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 8:22pm]

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