Patterson’s heard glowing reviews from managers and hourly employees. In the front of house, one is able to see every table from any point in the restaurant. The prototype also leverages a team service model in which servers use tablets to take orders instead of moving back and forth to a POS terminal.
The system requires fewer bodies, meaning one person is able to handle up to six tables, instead of three to four. That also means more tips and better recruitment and retention pitches in a tighter labor market. Front-of-house team members have new apparel, as well.
In the back of house, the NextGen design has all of Outback’s new cooking technology, including clamshell grills, a combi oven, and a kitchen display system.
For consumers, the interior is reimagined to be “vibrant, fun, and inviting,” including a chandelier that looks like the Southern Cross constellation and a graffiti mural inspired by Australian surf culture and the Sydney Harbor Bridge—the largest steel arch bridge in the world.
The new restaurants also feature artwork specific to their market, fulfilling Outback’s goal to set itself apart from the typical chain restaurant and be a fabric of the community.
“I will tell you from a consumer standpoint, we're just getting rave reviews again because folks have been part of our journey for 34 years, right?” Patterson says. “They've got a lot of brand awareness, they've got reverence for the brand, and so I think they get excited when they see what the future of Outback looks like.”
Culinary changes were implemented, as well, with a more steak-forward menu. For instance, there’s the Smoked Porterhouse, which is a steak infused with hickory smoke served on a wood platter with a dome overtop. Brussel sprouts were also added to the menu.
“There’s some items on the menu that are really more forward and where we're thinking we're going with the menu,” Patterson says.
Each of the four new stores, which cost 20 percent less to construct, were ground-up builds and freestanding. In the future, Outback will work on a prototype specifically for an inline location. Patterson isn’t able to be overly specific about the length of time it takes to open a prototype because of the noise surrounding supply chain, but there’s confidence that Outback can shed two to three weeks off the timeline as compared to a legacy unit.
The brand believes the prototype will work in any area, but the key to reaching its 75-100 goal will be entering secondary markets. Most of the expansion will come in the South where the chain has the most brand awareness, including states like South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
The steakhouse will continue to open larger units that are already in the pipeline, but after that, the slimmer prototype will be the primary growth driver. At the same time, the chain is in the midst of a remodel program and will implement some of the latest elements into its legacy stores.
“Just now emerging from the pandemic and things have slowed down, but yeah, we we are aggressively pursuing that goal to get 75-100 additional restaurants,” Patterson says.