Carrabba’s has been a slower grind, though. The chain’s pivot, frankly, was further away from its core proposition—authentic Italian dining at affordable prices. “I think the way we've managed the portfolio, with the strength of Outback, has given us the ability to put the Outback playbook in effect on all the others and getting the discounting out—that’ll be behind us as we exit Q4. So we’re looking for certainly a lot more traffic strength as we enter next year.”
Simplify and know the audience
Bonefish has witnessed a nice improvement over rough lapped results recently. Smith said Bloomin’s effort to simplify execution, while investing in food and the dining experience “returned the brand to its polished casual roots, known for fresh fish, innovative drinks, and superior service.”
In October, Bonefish rolled out a new brunch menu and expanded brunch to Saturday. “We continue to migrate our marketing resources away from national toward more impactful local programs,” Smith said. “This local philosophy helped define Bonefish as the 'unchained chain' and it's paying off in sales and profitability.”
Fleming’s made some directional changes, too, moving away from legacy-value offerings, such as its 567 Bar Menu, $29.95 Prime Rib, and some non-holiday gift card distributions. “We anticipated the negative impact on traffic from these actions, however, they have had a positive impact on profitability,” Smith said.
Smith said Fleming’s would continue differentiating the brand from the traditional high-end steakhouse to a localized menu selection and customer segmentation. The strategy appears effective across the portfolio not counting Outback, but especially these two. Chains that present like local restaurants, and carry the price tag and service promise to match.
Smith added that the last five Fleming’s have “just been terrific and opened well above the system average.
Rewards round out
“I think it's another example of where you really have this benefit of having a tightly edited portfolio that serves different eating occasions,” Smith said.
There are benefits to running concepts that serve multiple dayparts and price points, and Rewards is one of them. Smith said Bloomin’ has seen a traffic lift associated with introducing customers of one brand to another. “That is why you've seen so much success on the two-year basis associated with the program—is that when we say it's increased frequency, it's not just increased frequency against that customer in many cases within that brand, but it's also introducing them to another brand.”
Bloomin’s Dine Rewards program has more than 7.2 million members. Close to 600,000 came in this past quarter. The company’s CRM investment to boost engagement through customer-centric communications has been one of the main catalysts for Outback’s comeback. The shift from mass marketing to data personalization. It’s attracting a healthier consumer than the average coupon seeker and has also driven strong engagement across Bloomin’s portfolio. It’s allowed the company to reduce its advertising spend from 3.8 percent in 2016 to about 3.1 percent over the last two years, while improving return on investment.
“Our CRM and our mass personalization, a lot of time and patience went into adjusting it, and into investing capital dollars ahead of growth to build our data's infrastructure capability and now we're monetizing it,” Smith said.
She added that Bloomin is still “in the early innings of our loyalty journey.”
“We are now getting the data and developing very specific data customer profiles for our Dine Rewards program, which enables us then to market directly to the customer and have enhancements that could drive frequency even further,” Smith said.