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Outback veteran Avery retires

TAMPA Fla. After 20 years with Outback Steakhouse, Paul Avery announced his retirement Thursday as chief operating officer of parent company OSI Restaurant Partners LLC.


OSI said chief executive Bill Allen would assume Avery's duties while the company “evaluates its leadership structure.”




The news comes as OSI, parent company to the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar casual-dining brands, continues to battle the slumping sales that have plagued the casual-dining segment for the past few years.




Avery said he had been "contemplating retirement for some time," but held off because of the recession.




“Although the economy remains challenging,” Avery said, “OSI is now on a firm footing and I can devote my full time to my family.”




For its latest quarter ended March 31, OSI said it swung to a profit of $82.3 million, mainly on a gain from the extinguishment of debt. A year ago, the company had posted a loss of $9.7 million. Quarterly revenues fell nearly 10 percent to $964.4 million, as the company's brands continued to struggle with slumping sales. Systemwide same-store sales fell 8.6 percent at Outback, 7.3 percent at Carrabba's, 10.0 percent at Bonefish Grill and 19.9 percent at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.




OSI, which went private in a buyout in 2007, still files results with the Securities and Exchange Commission because it holds publicly traded debt.




Avery started his career with Outback in 1989 as managing partner of the chain's Palm Harbor, Fla., location. He was promoted to regional director and then vice president of operations before being named president of the Outback Steakhouse brand. He was promoted to his current role as OSI's chief operating officer in 2005, with direct responsibility for the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill brands.




“It is a testament to [Avery's] character that he delayed his retirement in order to continue to provide leadership through a tough economy," Allen said. "Paul has been a mentor to many people at OSI and he will always be part of the OSI family.”




Company founders Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham said in a statement: “OSI simply would not have become the company it is without Paul. He is a natural leader and has been a leader not only for OSI, but for the entire restaurant industry. We have the utmost gratitude for all Paul has done for OSI and its people.”



Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].



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