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Bloomin’ Brands sells 54 restaurants, mostly Outback, to franchisees

Operator refranchises 53 Outback Steakhouse units and one Carrabba’s Italian Grill location

Bloomin’ Brands Inc. has sold 54 company-owned restaurants to franchisees, the company said Friday, all but one of them Outback Steakhouse locations, in a pair of deals this month. 

The casual-dining operator sold 45 company-owned Outback Steakhouse units in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico to Cerca Trova Restaurant Concepts Inc. It also sold eight Outback Steakhouse locations and one Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Montana, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming to Evergreen Restaurant Group LLC.

Terms of the deals, both of which closed this week, were not available.

“Both Cerca Trova and Evergreen are excellent operators and have been successful Outback franchisees for more than 20 years,” Suk Singh, global chief development and franchising officer for Bloomin’ Brands, said in a statement. 

The acquisition of the 45 Outback Steakhouse locations will give Cerca Trova, Bloomin’ Brands’ largest franchisee, all of the chain’s units across five states. The company, formerly known as T-Bird Restaurant Group, has operated Outback Steakhouse restaurants in California since 1994. The private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital owns the franchisee. 

“This partnership will provide additional energy and resources to Cerca Trova as we expand,” Steve Weigel, the franchisee’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Evergreen has operated Bloomin’ Brands concepts for 21 years. The company franchises Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill, and operates restaurants in seven states.

“Operating three of the finest casual-dining brands in the country is very rewarding,” Jeff Jones, CEO of Evergreen, said in a statement.

Restaurant operators have been selling company-owned locations to franchisees for years, largely because franchising is more profitable and franchisees frequently do a better job of operating the restaurants. Franchisees have taken advantage, with many of them using large refranchising deals to grow. 

But these deals are unusual for Bloomin’ Brands, which operates the vast majority of its 1,500 locations. As of March 26, the company operated 637 of its 742 U.S. Outback Steakhouse locations.

The 53 Outback Steakhouse units sold represent 8 percent of the chain’s company-operated locations. Outback Steakhouse also closed 13 company-operated restaurants in the first quarter, according to SEC documents.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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