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

Takeout orders may have tripled during the pandemic, but the Tampa company’s sales didn’t really start climbing back until it reopened dining rooms.

TAMPA — Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands saw an explosion in takeout orders because of the pandemic, but it wasn’t until the restaurant group started reopening dining rooms last month that some locations began approaching pre-pandemic sales.

A new financial report released by the company this week shows slow, but steady, sales growth among its family of restaurants. Sales have not returned to pre-pandemic rates, but the restaurant groups called the results from May through the first week of June promising.

“We are encouraged by these sales trends as we begin to reopen our dining rooms,” CEO David Deno said in a statement. “By the end of the month, we expect to have (almost) all our domestic restaurant dining rooms opened with limited seating capacity.”

Related: Carryout orders have tripled at Outback owner Bloomin’ Brands since start of pandemic

Still, some of its brands are not performing as well as others and pulling down the restaurant’s overall comparable sales. The company’s sales were down about 28 percent for the week ending June 6, compared to the same week last year.

About 74 percent of all Bloomin’ Brands restaurants — Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar — reopened their dining rooms as of June 7. Those that have brought back limited in-house dining are outperforming those offering solely takeout and delivery.

Outback’s comparable restaurant for the sales the week ending June 6 were down about 14 percent among the 373 steakhouses with reopened dining rooms when compared to same period last year. At the nearly 200 Outback locations doing just takeout and delivery with closed dining areas, sales that same week were down almost 46 percent.

Carrabba’s, which has fewer restaurant locations, posted similar sale rates. Sales were down 13 percent among the 150 locations with open dining rooms and much steeper at those locations with only carryout and takeout. Yet, the sales rates at both Fleming’s and Bone Fish were down about 30 percent each at locations with open dining rooms and down more than 60 percent at those still relying only on takeout.

The restaurant group did triple its takeout and carry out sales during the pandemic, but it wasn’t enough to completely make up for its usual stream of customers.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been nimble in adapting our business,” Deno said in his statement. “We continue to adhere to the strongest of safety measures as we open dining rooms."

Bloomin’ says it has sanitation and disinfecting practices, hand-wash protocols, glove and mass policies and contactless payment options at its location seating tables.

As of Thursday morning, Bloomin’ said it had $493 million in total liquidity. That includes $128 million in cash and $365 million in revolving credit.

“We believe we are well positioned to build upon our recent success and emerge a stronger company as we navigate the ongoing crisis,” Deno said.

Bloomin’ Brands closed at $11.70 per share Friday, up about 9 percent.

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