After a year of inflation that prompted price hikes at its restaurants, Outback Steakhouse parent company Bloomin’ Brands said Friday that it’s looking at a year of price and profit stability.
During an earnings call with investors Friday, the Tampa company said traffic at its restaurants — which include Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar — ticked up in December and reached record levels over Valentine’s Day week.
“Last year, inflation was terrible,” CEO David Deno said. “Gas prices were way up, which for parts of our consumer base is a big deal. That was a headwind for us last summer, especially. Our belief is that our core input prices — labor prices, utility costs, commodity costs — are going to continue to moderate versus last year. They won’t be as high. There’ll still be an increase, but it won’t be as high as last year.”
As a result, the company is aiming to keep menu prices relatively steady through the end of 2023.
“Pricing can have a big impact on your financial results,” Chief Financial Officer Chris Meyer told investors, “but it also, in terms of traffic, can have longer-term implications.”
For the three months ending March 31, Bloomin’ Brands reported revenues of $1.2 billion, compared to $1.1 billion during the same period in 2022. Income was also up year over year, going from $75.5 million last year to $91.3 million this year.
So far in 2023, the company has launched a “Social Hour” at Fleming’s featuring small plates and drink specials, and relaunched brunch at Bonefish Grill.
The company has also been rolling out new technology designed to smooth and streamline the ordering process, including handheld server units for taking and inputting orders. The new tech has led to savings in several areas, including labor. While the company’s overall workforce is growing due to new restaurants opening, its number of employees per restaurant has ticked down. For example, Deno said, a server who used to work four tables at a time now might work six.
“Clearly, the technology investments we’re making in the restaurants and the kitchen and everything else is paying off,” he said.
Bloomin’ Brands stock dipped slightly after markets opened Friday, but rebounded to $24.62 by midafternoon.