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Bloomin-Outback-Coronavirus-Reopen-Dining-Rooms.jpg Bloomin' Brands Inc.
Bloomin' Brands is opening dining rooms at reduced capacity as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Outback Steakhouse parent Bloomin’ Brands reopens dining rooms as coronavirus rules ease

Company to have 336 dine-in units open today, compared to 23 Outback units over weekend

Bloomin’ Brands Inc., parent to Outback Steakhouse and other casual-dining brands, is reopening its dining rooms as state and local coronavirus restrictions are eased, the company said Tuesday in a business update.

“As these dining rooms reopen,” said David Deno, Bloomin’ Brands CEO, in a statement, “we are adhering to the strongest of safety measures, including additional sanitation and disinfecting practices, enhanced hand-washing protocols, use of gloves and facial protection for our employees, and we are providing contactless payment options for our customers.”

As of the end of Tuesday, the Tampa, Fla.-based dining company, which also owns the Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar brands, expected it would have 336 dining rooms open with limited seating capacity in multiple states, up from the 23 Outback units with dine-in service on Sunday.

“Each dining room seating configuration has been modified to adhere to social distancing and reduced capacity standards, and we are leveraging our table management notification system to allow guests to wait in their cars for their table,” Deno said.

At the 23 units open on Sunday, same-store sales were down 17% from the prior year, Deno said, and the company saw limited declines in off-premise business.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March, Bloomin’ Brands had shifted to off-premise sales.

“Outstanding off-premises results have allowed us to keep substantially all of our locations open during this time,” Deno said. Average off-premises sales for the week ended May 3 at units open more than 18 months included: $39.648 at Outback, $26,523 at Carrabba’s, $15,643 at Bonefish and $20,848 at Fleming’s.

“Our decision not to terminate or furlough any of our employees will allow us to reopen dining rooms quickly with no re-hiring or training expenses,” Deno added.

In the week ended May 3, Bloomin’ said same-store sales were down 48% across all four brands, with declines of 38.4% at Outback, 47.2% at Carrabba’s, 70.7% at Bonefish and 74.1% at Fleming’s.

Deno said the company was “tightly managing” its cash usage. As of May 4, it had about $270 million of cash on hand in domestic bank accounts, including cash in transit from weekend sales.

“At recent sales levels, we expect our ongoing weekly cash burn rate to be approximately $6 million to $8 million, while our business is operating primarily off-premises,” Deno said. “This is down from our previous burn rate of $8 million to $10 million due primarily to higher sales volumes. We would expect our burn rate to improve as more dining rooms reopen and capacity expands.”

Bloomin’ said the company had suspended discussions about the sale of its Brazilian steakhouse business, which has nearly 100 units and was being considered for spinoff.

“We have suspended further activity with respect to the strategic review process as we prioritize our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said Tuesday.

For the first quarter ended March 29, Bloomin’ Brands swung to a loss of $41.6 million, or 44 cents a share, from a profit of $82.5 million, or 69 cents a share, in the same period last year. The company will release full first-quarter earnings on Friday.

Bloomin’ Brands’ same-store sales in the quarter were down 10.4% systemwide and for each brand were: Outback, down 9.5%; Carrabba’s, down 8.7%; Bonefish Grill, down 13.9%; and Fleming’s, down 10.4%.

Bloomin’ Brands has more than 1,450 restaurants in 48 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 20 countries, some of which are franchise locations.

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

Learn how consumer trends are shifting during COVID-19 from our panel of experts on Thursday, May 7.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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