1. Business

Outback dabbles in fast-casual with new Aussie Grill concept

TAMPA — Bloomin' Brands is using its most successful restaurant to spinoff a new fast-casual chain: Aussie Grill by Outback.

The Tampa-based company will begin testing its new burger-and-sandwich-focused eatery at International Plaza mall in late April. It will be Aussie Grill's American debut. Bloomin' opened locations in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong earlier this year.

"We will open some locations in the Tampa market to monitor and fine-tune the concept as needed," Bloomin' spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said in a statement.

The fast-casual setup is new to the Bloomin' portfolio, which includes standard sit-down restaurants such as Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Bloomin' has also been testing Outback and Carrabba's Express locations, which focus on larger carry-out orders for families.

Fast-casual restaurants, like the new Aussie Grill, don't use wait staffs. Rather, customers order their meals at a counter.

"Aussie Grill by Outback was developed primarily for international growth," Watts said. "The fast-casual service model allows franchisees to operate in a smaller footprint, with lower investment while still serving high-quality food."

Although Aussie Grill's locations abroad have in-house seating areas, records filed with the city of Tampa show Tampa's Aussie Grill will take over the food court spot previously occupied by Johnny Rockets.

Its operating space will only take up about 700 square feet.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.