Outback’s brass has touted these operational improvements for a while now. But they put a price tag on them last week. CEO Dave Deno, who stepped into the role in March, said during a conference call that, over the past three years, Bloomin poured north of $50 million into the customer experience. This breaks down as $30 million toward food quality—portion enhancements and reducing complexity—and $20 million in service, training, and labor.
Furthermore, Outback spent upward of $400 million in remodels to contemporize the brand and improve curb appeal. It plans to update 300 additional units in the next three years. “Customers have taken notice as we have seen strengthening brand health measures,” Deno said. Bloomin’ previously projected capital expenditures between $175 million to $200 million in 2019.
Outback is currently testing multiple interior remodel prototypes, he added. Beyond freshening décor and ambiance, the units are reconfigured to handle a surge in off-premises orders. These units have expanded off-premises rooms to serve higher order volumes.
Outback isn’t just satisfying a shift in its own business with this change—its preparing for a future where dine-in traffic makes up a smaller piece of the overall pie. Dining out of home represents an $870 billion slice of the restaurant industry. For casual-dining brands, it’s roughly $86 billion of that competitive set, according to The NPD Group.
So as Bloomin’ invests in guest-facing initiatives and four-wall experiences—as the $50 million proves—it must extend beyond traditional reach if it wants to balance out lower guest counts in the coming months and years—something all restaurants grapple with.
Forty-six percent of Baby Boomers order less than one meal per month via delivery, per NPD. For millennials, it’s 29 percent who order one or more meals per week via delivery. As these consumer segments continue to swap prominence, the at-home opportunity, which currently represents about $750 billion, is going to become an every bigger target for sit-down restaurants.