The seafood chain is launching the channel systemwide, following sister concepts Carrabba's and Outback—both of which have had massive success during the pandemic. 

Bloomin’ Brands is doubling down on catering. 

Four months after Outback launched the off-premises program nationwide, sister concept Bonefish Grill plans to do the same. Some of the menu highlights include Simply Grilled Chicken, Creamy Cajun Pasta, Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos, Ahi Tuna Sashimi, a dessert platter, and gallon-sized lemonade and unsweetened iced tea. The meals are enough for up to 10 people. 

The catering option is available at 165 of Bonefish’s 182 locations nationwide. 

“We’re excited to offer a fantastic catering menu for both work events or gatherings with friends and family,” brand president Michael Healy said in a statement. “From our iconic Bang Bang Shrimp to fresh seafood and bountiful pasta, there is something for everyone made with the quality for which Bonefish Grill is known.”

Bonefish Grill is coming off a 2021 in which it earned $544 million, up from $396 million in the pandemic-ridden 2020, according to the FSR 50. AUV increased to $3 million, an increase from $2.1 million in 2020.

In Q2, the chain’s same-store sales dropped 1.1 percent year-over-year in the face of inflation and consumers tightening wallets, but it grew 3.3 percent versus 2019. Average weekly sales per unit was $64,113 ($3.3 million in annualized AUV), an improvement from $60,018 three years ago. Most of that growth is coming from increased menu prices. Bonefish’s traffic dropped 8.6 percent year-over-year in the second quarter and declined 4.9 percent against 2019, while average check lifted 7.5 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. 

CEO David Deno has repeatedly told analysts that Bloomin’ is pursuing catering opportunities as consumers return to offices. Carrabba’s is the leader of the group, with catering sales rising 46 percent in 2021 versus 2019. Outback rolled out the channel to nearly 500 locations in April. Catering was “virtually negligent” for Bloomin’ prior to the pandemic, Deno said in February. CFO Chris Meyer voiced the same sentiment, calling it a “tiny” part of the business. 

Deno said the program has a “very attractive” margin, which should help in Bloomin’s long-term pursuit of 8 percent operating profits. 

“Clearly, coming into this year, who would have thought the inflation was going to look like it did?” Meyer said in late July. “So there’s a lot of variables that can change, but we are committed to achieving this 8 percent operating margin target, and we think we have the levers moving forward that we can do that.”

Before the pandemic, catering represented a $60 billion market and was growing at 6 percent annually. Pre-COVID, 90 percent of operators said the channel was strategically important to their business, and 91 percent were actively investing in the program, according to ezCater, who powers Bonefish’s program. 

Bloomin’s push for catering is part of an overall digital movement. In the second quarter, 75 percent of off-premises sales came online or through the app. 

“Restaurants have to meet their customers where they are,” Mike O’Hanlon, ezCater’s head of catering partner business. “They don’t want to wait on hold or place an order through a form anymore. Your digital footprint needs to make it effortless for the customer to choose you.”

Chain Restaurants, Feature, Bonefish Grill