Growing sales certainly help, too. Outback’s U.S. comps lifted 6 percent versus 2019, while Carrabba’s grew 17.1 percent. Bonefish Grill (+5.7 percent) and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Bar (+28 percent) experienced notable increases over two years ago, as well. Combined, U.S. comps rose 9.5 percent in the third quarter.
CEO David Deno said same-store sales at Outback started strong in July, but there was moderation in August due to traditional seasonality, concerns over the Delta variant, and the decision not to repeat significant promotional activity that took place in 2019, including the Steak & Lobster promotion for $16.99, Steak & Unlimited Shrimp at a discounted price, and offers tied to the launch of Bloomin’s third-party delivery channel.
The promotional programs started in early August 2019 and affected traffic by 10 percentage points in the final eight weeks of that period.
The impact of not running the 2019 promotional activities has carried into the fourth quarter, as Outback’s same-store sales rose just 0.3 percent in October.
The restaurant should be finished lapping that promotional program in mid-November.
“Although there were merits this activity, repeating this promotion to 2021 did not make sense for our company in the current environment,” Deno said.
Bloomin’s off-premises business remained an important part of sales growth in the third quarter. The company earned more than $236 million in sales outside the four walls in Q3, mixing roughly 27 percent. Seventy percent of off-premises sales came through digital channels, which is a 251 percent increase over 2019.
Outback’s off-premises mixed 29 percent in Q3, while Carrabba’s channel accounted for 36 percent of sales; each have held steady in Q4. Bloomin’s third-party delivery business, which Meyer referred to as “highly incremental,” grew to 10 percent of sales in the quarter. Deno also noted that profit margins in the off-premises channel are now approaching margins of the in-restaurant business.
The rise in off-premises helped offset an 8 percent decrease in sit-down sales in the quarter.
"So obviously, we're still getting a real nice buffer, a real nice tailwind from our off-premises opportunity,” Meyer said.
Outback ended Q3 with 697 restaurants—596 company-owned and 131 franchised. Carrabba’s, Bonefish, and Fleming’s finished with 219, 186, and 64 restaurants, respectively.
Bloomin’ earned $1 billion in total revenue in the third quarter, up from $771.3 million last year and $967.1 million in 2019.