Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar this month laid off its unit-level private-dining directors as it beefs up a regional management approach to that business, according to a spokesperson for parent Bloomin’ Brands Inc.
Tampa, Fla.-based Bloomin’, which also owns the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Kitchen and Bonefish Grill casual-dining brands, said the private-dining reorganization was a business decision unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bloomin’ had 65 units of the upscale Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse at the end of the second quarter.
“We have been working on a more proactive, regional approach to the private-dining business for a couple of years, moving to multiple teams in multiple locations,” said Cathie Koch, Bloomin’ Brands group vice president for corporate affairs.
“For example, a California-based regional team now has the ability to sell 14 locations.,” Koch said. “The benefit of this is that the volumes in each restaurant vary significantly. The previous approach of one director for every restaurant was not scalable.”
The regional teams include automation for bookings as well as employees for personal interaction, she said. Private-dining customers had asked for the reorganization, Koch noted.
“Our customers, especially the frequent private-dining customer such as pharmaceutical companies and financial services accounts, challenged us to create a frictionless experience that was easier to book, order and pay,” Koch explained.
“While some people still prefer to speak to another person, many are more comfortable and desire an automated approach,” she said. “Of course, we have sales associates who are readily available for those who prefer or require a more customized approach to their event.”
With business travel and entertainment curtailed during the limits on social gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, private-dining has seen pressures, but Koch said Bloomin’ remained bullish on the future of the segment.
“We believe this business, newly renamed, ‘events and catering’ will return, but it will be slower to come back based on the return of travel, business gatherings and live events,” she said.
For the second quarter ended June 28, same-store sales at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse were down 56.3% from the same period last year, the company said in releasing earnings in July. That reflected the impact of state and local restrictions in the wake of the pandemic, which was declared in March.
For the second quarter, Bloomin’ Brands swung to a loss of $92.4 million, or $1.05 a share, from a profit of $29 million, or 32 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues fell 43.4%, to $578.5 million, from $1.02 billion in the prior-year quarter.
Bloomin’ Brands operates more than 1,450 restaurants in 47 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 20 countries, some of which are franchise locations.
In addition to its casual-dining brands, the company in May launched its first domestic stand-alone fast-casual Aussie Grill with a drive-thru and in September debuted its delivery-only virtual Tender Shack quick-service brand in the Tampa area.
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