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Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill combine to open their third express location offering only takeaway, delivery and catering. This is its first such location in Tampa Bay. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Time]
Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill combine to open their third express location offering only takeaway, delivery and catering. This is its first such location in Tampa Bay. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Time]
Published Feb. 16, 2018

Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill have become household names in casual dining.

Now, their parent company, Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands is taking the "dining" part out in a concept that it's bringing to Tampa Bay for the first time.

A new Outback & Carrabba's Express at 4306 W Gandy Blvd that offers strictly takeout, delivery and catering — and no dine-in — opened last month.

Bloomin' Brands has experimented with the concept in Hollywood since last August and in Orlando since last December. In addition to the Gandy location, it is planning to open an Express in Riverview on U.S. 301 and Summerfield Crossing Blvd this May.

"We're pleased with how things are going at our Express locations and look forward to opening our Riverview location soon. It's really about providing great food that's convenient," said Bloomin' Brands vice president Chris Demery.

"People have told us they don't always have time to come in and sit down to dine, but still enjoy our food on busy days while juggling kids' activities or other various commitments. So, we opened our third Outback & Carrabba's Express here in Tampa to provide our guests the option of a restaurant-quality meal at home."

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The new approach may be a sign of the times for other chain outlets, according to one industry expert.

"The delivery express model makes a lot of sense because the market is heading in that direction," said Erik Thoresen, a principal and restaurant technology expert with Technomic.

"There are more consumers ordering online today because of third party delivery services like Grubhub, so because of that, chain restaurants in the full service space have to adjust in order to remain competitive given that shift in the market."

He adds that many full service restaurants are overbuilt with too many units that have too much square footage. He foresees more restaurants closing some of their underperforming locations, and placing a stronger emphasis on smaller, more flexible delivery units their infrastructure will allow.

"This is the beginning of that change," Thoresen said. "The biggest concern for restaurants today is maintaining that connection with the consumer as well as controlling all elements of their brand in the user experience including that delivery process."

Separately, Carrabba's has just launched its own delivery service out of a dozen locations in Tampa Bay. The dinner service includes Family Bundles — complete made-from-scratch meal for up to 5 — starting at $7 per person. The delivery fee is $4.

Both the delivery service and takeout only experiment aren't a surprise after Bloomin' Brands has seen a slump in sales in some of its restaurants in the past few years. It is coming off a particularly harsh third quarter in which it reported a 5.6 percent drop in revenue and a 79 percent drop in net income.

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According to the Tampa company, its chains struggled from lost operating days due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as high labor costs, inflation, higher rent expense and the costs of closing certain locations.

Since November, Bloomin' shares have rebounded to climb back above $20 a share; the company will report its fourth quarter and full year earnings on Feb. 22.

The Outback/Carrabba's Express location provides about 75 percent of the menu from both restaurants strictly through takeaway, delivery and catering services at the same pricing with just $4 more for delivery.

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Favorites from Outback like its well-known Bloomin' Onion, its signature steaks and more are on the menu. Customers can also mix and match favorites from both restaurant menus, and Outback and Carrabba's Express will also offer a selection of beer and wine.

Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Contact Monique Welch at