Investor Spotlight: Bloomin’ Brands
June 18, 2019
In the late 1980s, four friends and hospitality industry veterans opened their first Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Tampa. Outback quickly became known for serving a great steak at a reasonable price by people who genuinely cared about their guests. Since the first Outback Steakhouse opened, the family has expanded to include Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Together, these make up Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. Today, Bloomin’ Brands is one of the world’s largest casual dining companies with approximately 94,000 employees and close to 1,500 restaurants throughout 48 states and internationally.
David Deno, CEO
As CEO, Deno is responsible for developing and executing the company’s long-term objectives, growth strategies and initiatives for its portfolio of casual and fine-dining brands, which include Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.
Deno joined the company in 2012 and was previously Chief Financial and Administrative Officer where he was responsible for the company’s business analytics and global strategy, as well as all areas of financial planning and reporting, including accounting services, corporate tax, treasury and investor relations. Deno’s hospitality industry career has included more than 15 years in senior level operations and financial positions at PepsiCo/YUM Brands and eight years at Burger King
Why is Tampa a good test market for new brands and concepts?
Tampa’s diverse population creates an impressive testing ground for new ideas, and with our Restaurant Support Center based here, it also allows us to collect information and quickly fine tune our approach based on feedback.
Additionally, with Tampa’s vibrant tourism industry, many people from around the country and abroad visit or have ties to Tampa, so the exposure and visibility extend far beyond input and reaction from residents.
Bloomin’ Brands recently launched a new fast-casual concept in Tampa called Aussie Grill by Outback. What kind of feedback are you getting so far?
Aussie Grill was developed primarily for international growth. We opened our first two locations in January in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. This is a fast-casual service model which means it offers counter service (no servers), and more importantly, it allows franchisees to operate in a smaller footprint in larger markets with a lower investment, while still serving our high-quality food.
It’s still very early, and we normally do not talk about our tests, but I will share that the feedback from guests has been positive.
I’m proud to work for a company that tests new approaches to meeting customer needs. Aussie Grill is one example of how we are doing that. I invite everyone to check us out and let us know what you think!
How have emerging technology and innovation changed the restaurant industry?
Like most industries, technology has impacted nearly every aspect of our business. On the operations side, technology helps our Supply Chain with forecasting and distribution, we use technology for scheduling, and in the kitchens, technology aids our ability to prepare our delicious meals more efficiently.
As for marketing, we are moving from mass marketing to personalization. Instead of sending the same communication to everyone, technology is allowing us to tailor our message to each guest, based on their preferences – whether they are steak lovers, seafood aficionados or enjoy Carrabba’s wine dinners.
Customer convenience is another significant benefit of some of the platforms we are using. Guests may order online or through our app and have their meal delivered or add themselves to the waitlist in a restaurant so that they are seated shortly after arrival. At the table, we also offer the ability to pay for meals on personal phones without waiting for a server, which can be a time saver for those with time constraints.
Attracting corporate headquarters, such as Bloomin’ Brands, is one of the EDC’s goals. What do you find appealing about Tampa’s business climate and would you encourage other companies to consider Tampa for their corporate headquarters?
I would definitely recommend Tampa to those searching for a new headquarters. While Tampa is a special place for Bloomin’ Brands, our founders opened the first Outback Steakhouse over 30 years ago on Henderson Blvd. in South Tampa, I believe Tampa’s transformation is just getting started.
We are already home to many high-quality headquarters, and with the help of the EDC, others are relocating here each year. Our universities create homegrown talent, and this is simply a great place to live, work, and play. The spirit of Tampa – the people, the hospitality mindset, the sense of community, and the desire to have fun, whether it be through sports, our beaches, or our community organizations – is second to none.
Why is it important for companies to invest in economic development?
A thriving business environment benefits all companies and communities. Investing for growth helps attract more commerce, as well as attracts top talent, and reinforces a sense of community. It is not as linear as “my investment of X resulted in Y,” but it is a holistic approach that when we all work together, through financial investment, investment in community service or sharing our talents – each type of investment plays an important role in the overall success of our local economy and community.