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Outback Steakhouse in Florida leads Bloomin’ Brands despite coronavirus spikes

The company has open dining rooms in about 92 percent of its restaurants.
Server Asia Lancaster, left, delivers a to-go order of sirloin steak, chicken, and shrimp pasta to Ryan Dundee, of Clearwater on May 8 in the parking lot at Outback Steakhouse in Palm Harbor.
Server Asia Lancaster, left, delivers a to-go order of sirloin steak, chicken, and shrimp pasta to Ryan Dundee, of Clearwater on May 8 in the parking lot at Outback Steakhouse in Palm Harbor. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jul. 24, 2020
Updated Jul. 24, 2020

TAMPA — Bloomin’ Brands, the company that owns Outback Steakhouse, says despite the pandemic it has stores turning profits — mainly, ones in the South.

During its second-quarter phone call with investors Friday, the company said Texas and Florida were posting the most positive sales trends. Company leaders said of the 129 top-performing locations, more than half were in the South. Generally, those locations were in states that reopened dining rooms sooner than the rest of the country. But those states are also the ones now facing the highest rates of COVID-19 infections, leaving some local governments to backtrack on reopening policies.

“We have been doing what we’ve done since the beginning: Balance the health and safety of our team members and customers,” CEO David Deno told the Tampa Bay Times. “Employees and customers have been behaving really responsible and people are coming into our restaurants as a result.”

Deno said restaurants are helping Florida’s economy and giving “people a chance to enjoy an evening out.” The company says any new capacity limitations because of the virus have not had major effects on sales in the southern market. Still, the restaurant group is feeling the fiscal burden from the pandemic — even if it’s faring better overall than some of its competitors.

Bloomin’ posted revenues of $578.5 million this quarter, down from $1.02 billion last year.

Related: Outback Steakhouse owner says reopened dining rooms helping COVID-19 recovery

Bloomin’ Brands is headquartered in Tampa. The company operates Outback, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. The company has dining rooms and outdoor seating available at 92 percent of its roughly 1,000 U.S. locations — 286 are in Florida and Texas.

“During this time we did not furlough or lay off one person,” Deno said. “We didn’t have to rehire everybody and didn’t have to retrain, so we could have a fast start as restaurants reopened.”

Meanwhile, restaurant companies — such as the owner of Italian restaurants Brio and Bravo — filed for Chapter 11 protections because of losses at the hands of the pandemic.

Outback’s sales show despite coronavirus, consumers are eager to dine out. The week ending July 19, Outbacks with open dining rooms had a sales dip of about 11 percent compared to that week the year before. In restaurants doing only carryout, the sales were down nearly 39 percent over the same period.

Deno said the restaurants’ carryout options are performing well, recently making up about 45 percent of total sales.

Outback is leading the company’s sales, followed by Carrabba’s. Bonefish and Fleming’s are struggling to match the same level, but Deno said those restaurants hadn’t invested as much in off-premise dining options as Outback and Carrabba’s did prior to the pandemic. Now Bonefish is offering family carryout meals and simplified online ordering similar to Bloomin’ Brands’ other restaurants.

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Shares for Bloomin’ have fallen by more than 50 percent year to date. The company’s stocks were up about 7.4 percent at $11.56 per share at the close of market Friday.