Aussie Grill, a fast-casual concept from Bloomin’ Brands, operator of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Bonefish, and Fleming's, is expected to open in April. The counter-service version of its iconic steakhouse chain will be located in Tampa.
Aussie Grill will have a smaller footprint to the original chain, and be housed in the food court of Tampa’s International Plaza in a spot that previously featured Johnny Rockets. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported the space is 687 square feet, according to construction filings with the city.
“The fast-casual service model allows franchisees to operate in a smaller footprint, with lower investment while still serving high-quality food,” Elizabeth Watts, a spokesperson for the Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands, told the publication.
While this is the first location of Aussie Grill to open in the U.S., Bloomin’ Brands debuted two international locations in January—one company owned in Hong Kong and one franchise in Saudi Arabia. The brand views it as an international growth vehicle.
More locations are expected to open in Tampa, which will serve as a domestic test market where the brand can “monitor and fine-tune the concept as needed,” Watts said.
This isn’t the first time Bloomin’ has dabbled in the fast-casual, express space. Last year, an express version of Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill opened to help extend the brand's off-premises reach. A few express are still open, but Bloomin’ has not expressed any further development of that type of concept.
Over the last quarter, Bloomin’ invested around $50 million in off-premises dining, digital personalization, and loyalty options.
Bloomin’ is in a position to expand its investments into other areas beyond off-premises. Outback ended 2018 on a strong note. Outback's same-store sales rose 4 percent in 2018—its best annual comp sales result in six years.
“These investments have helped to fortify the core business and expand our reach to new and existing customers,” Smith said. “We will continue to leverage our scale, portfolio of brands and data analytics to enhance engagement with higher returns.”