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Outback parent opens more than 300 of its restaurants: COVID-19 business update

Outback restaurants that opened down just 17 percent

The parent of Outback Steakhouse, Fleming’s, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill announced that 336 total locations were open as of May 5 across several states. Sales at Bloomin’ Brands are showing signs of promise, according to a new business update provided by David Deno, chief executive officer. At 23 Outback locations that were already open with curtailed capacity, comparable (comp) sales were down just 17 percent. This more than cut in half the comp sales decline of 41 percent from the week ending March 22.

By pivoting to off-premises sales aggressively, Outback had relatively soft sales decline during the weeks of dining room closures than many other casual-dining concepts. And at 39.8K during the week of April 26, off-premises sales had nearly doubled from $21.8K the week ending March 22.

Posting a 50.3 percent comp sales decrease the week ending April 26, Carrabba’s is also on the rebound. The Italian-style casual-dining chain has climbed back from comp sales of (67.5) percent one month ago. Plus, off-premises sales have jumped 77 percent from the week ending March 22 to $26.8K.

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In preliminary U.S. comp sales results released, Outback was down 9.5 percent during the first quarter of 2020. Its sister brands were also down. Carrabba’s, Bonefish and Fleming’s posted comp sales decreases of 8.7, 13.9, and 13.2 percent, respectively. Moreover, U.S. comparable stores combined dropped 10.2 percent from the same quarter last year.

Outback saw the softest drop from where it was trending in February at 2.2 percent in comp sales. That spread was about 11.7 percent. Bonefish Grill experienced the biggest decrease from where it ran in comp sales in February, dropping 15.9 percentage-points from a February comp of 2.2 percent.

In the Bloomin’ Brands business update, Deno also stressed that restaurants would follow strong safety protocols as they moved forward with reopening. He added that restaurants have been reconfigured for social distancing and reduced capacity. In addition, the chain’s customers will be able to use contactless payment options. Bloomin’s restaurants will also allow guests to wait in their cars for their tables to be ready so that they can safely social-distance from others.

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Tampa, Fla.-based Bloomin’ Brands’ chief executive outline additional steps to offset the impact of COVID-19 and related restrictions and closures:

  • Tightly managing expenses and reducing capital expenditures
  • Following its plan to save $40M in costs
  • Managing its weekly burn rate of $6M to $8M, which has already dropped $2M
  • Maintaining cash on hand ($270M of cash is in the bank)
  • Discontinuing its review of strategic alternatives

On May 8, Bloomin’ Brands will provide additional details on its conference call and formally release its 1Q earnings.

Photo credit: Bloomin’ Brands (featured in preview: Outback)

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