All of those core values, including made-from-scratch cooking and fresh products, are the foundation, Kappitt says. But they’re also, in theory, beliefs shared by every local Italian spot in the country.
Carrabba’s has always pushed the proposition of authentic Italian food at affordable prices. This often resulted, though, in complicated and disruptive LTOs that challenged execution and were difficult—and expensive—to market against.
The ideal hasn’t changed. Carrabba’s is simply attacking the strategy more strategically and from a deeper level than its smaller competitors. It has focused heavily on “healthy traffic,” in recent quarters, moving away from deep discounts to better execution of its core menu. Carrabba’s is targeting more proprietary programs and special occasions and rebuilding its guest base on long-term differentiators, like superior food and service, delivery and other off-premises, family-geared initiatives. Midway through 2018, the chain was down 37 percent in discounting, year-to-date.
Naturally, slicing that kind of promotional-based calendar will dampen traffic a bit. But like all of its brands, including Bonefish and Fleming’s, Bloomin’ believes the end result will be well worth the short-term pain.
This has been a steady grind for Carrabba’s. Back in the first quarter of 2017, the chain shuttered 14 units as same-store sales declined 3.8 percent.
Here’s a look at how the comparable sales picture has evolved:
- Q1 2019: 0.3 percent
- Q4 2018: 0.8 percent
- Q3 2018: –0.6 percent
- Q2 2018: –0.6 percent
- Q1 2018: 0.9 percent
- Q4 2017: 1.3 percent
- Q3 2017: –2.8 percent
- Q2: 2017: 0.4 percent
- Q1 2017: –3.8 percent (closed 14 company stores)
The proprietary concept is one of the biggest changes, Kappitt says. Carrabba’s has a few regular programs, like Amore Monday (three-course meals starting at $12.99); Founders Favorites Tuesday (original items brought back); Pizza & Wine Wednesday (any wood-fired pizza for $9.99 and $10 off bottles of wine); Date Night Thursday (four-course dinners for $45); and Sangria Sunday (endless glasses for $12.99 with the purchase of an entrée).