Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Business

Outback owner grows virtual restaurants as it fights pandemic sales slump

Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands says despite its $14 million in Q4 losses, it is doing better than its competition as it launches Tender Shack nationwide.
Server Asia Lancaster, left, delivers a to-go order of sirloin steak, chicken, and shrimp pasta to Ryan Dundee, of Clearwater, on Friday, May 8, 2020, in the parking lot at Outback Steakhouse in Palm Harbor. The company's owners continue to grow its carryout and delivery options to keep up with pandemic demands.
Server Asia Lancaster, left, delivers a to-go order of sirloin steak, chicken, and shrimp pasta to Ryan Dundee, of Clearwater, on Friday, May 8, 2020, in the parking lot at Outback Steakhouse in Palm Harbor. The company's owners continue to grow its carryout and delivery options to keep up with pandemic demands. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 18
Updated Feb. 18

TAMPA — Outback-owner Bloomin’ Brands says carryout and delivery orders made up 37 percent of sales across its portfolio in its last quarter, leading the company to expand delivery-only restaurant Tender Shack nationwide.

CEO David Deno announced both the company’s fourth quarter results and the decision to expand Tender Shack on Thursday. The chicken-focused virtual restaurant is available only on delivery app DoorDash and operates out of the kitchens of Carrabba’s Italian Grill. The restaurant company has focused on growing carryout and delivery options throughout the pandemic, aiding in keeping its sales from falling as low as some competitors.

“The fourth quarter showed our resilience navigating through an ever changing landscape,” Deno said during a Thursday morning investors call.

Bloomin’ reported fourth quarter losses of $14.2 million. Sales across all of its brands — Outback, Carrabba’s, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Bonefish Grill — were down nearly 18 percent for the first quarter, but were improving in recent weeks as more of the country allowed a return of indoor dining.

In the last seven weeks, Carrabba’s sales were down only 6 percent compared the same period last year. Outback’s were down just about 11 percent. As of Valentines Day, 99 percent of the company’s U.S. restaurants had some form of indoor dining available.

Related: Outback owner banks on takeout by growing Tender Shack and Aussie Grill

“It is clear customers want to come back to restaurants and are confident in our ability to provides a safe dining experience,” Deno said.

For those still uneasy with eating out during the pandemic, the company’s leading restaurants have leaned into carryout and delivery. A new Carrabba’s Express is slated to open in South Florida next week.

The Tender Shack concept was tested in Tampa over the last several months before the expansion. Deno said he expects sales on the app-only restaurant to reach $75 million per year. At the same time, Bloomin’ plans to open four more of the drive-thru restaurant concept it is testing, Aussie Grill, in the greater Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa restaurant group has plans to open a handful of new Outback locations while relocating some others at a time smaller restaurants and chains are struggling to keep their doors open. Deno told investors he expects 5 to 10 percent of restaurants across the industry to close.

“I don’t wish ill will on any restaurant,” he said. But the company does expect an influx of real estate opportunities to grow it own footprint.

Bloomin’ Brands reported a loss of $158.7 million, or $1.85 per share, for the fiscal year ended Dec. 27. Revenue was reported at $3.17 billion. At the close of market Thursday, Bloomin’ Brands stock prices were up just over 7 percent on the day at $24.15 per share.