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Outback's new app has led to some of the digital success Bloomin' Brands has seen.

Bloomin’ Brands growth momentum surpasses pre-pandemic levels

Overall same-store sales are up 12.1% for the second quarter compared to 2019, thanks to a mix in off and on-premises growth

Despite how much the casual-dining industry struggled during the pandemic, Bloomin’ Brands is thriving, with same-store sales surpassing pre-pandemic levels, up 12.1% for the second quarter ended June 27 compared with 2019, and up 84.6% compared to 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to earnings numbers released Friday. Sales volumes also exceeded 2019 levels.

CEO David Deno attributes this sales momentum that has moved beyond recovery from last year to surpass pre-pandemic levels of growth to their multichannel sales mix. Bloomin’ Brands began offering delivery five years ago and put digital marketing efforts into place shortly after that so they were ready to take advantage of the changing industry needs when the pandemic hit.  

“You have to be a multichannel restaurant company these days,” Deno told Nation’s Restaurant News. “You have to have great dine-in service, a really terrific carryout offering and you have to be able to do delivery. I think we're well-positioned as a company to do all three of those. […] You have to have the technology and equipment to make it happen, so we're investing a lot of time and effort on supporting those lines of business.”

During the second quarter, Bloomin Brands’ attributed 28% of total revenues to digital sales, showing how much their sales mix has grown since the pandemic. Adding to that momentum was the launch of the new Outback Steakhouse app last month, with new features coming that are designed to help accelerate off-premises sales further.

“Customers want to be treated special,” Deno said. “Not so much with discounts, but if we could get more product offerings to our heavy users earlier, we could get them special seating and a more customized experience, I think that would be really important.”

Deno said that they are using the Outback app as a baseline to test out the technology before it migrates to their other brands. He added during the earnings call that they are looking into other digital technology features but declined to extrapolate further.

In addition to off-premises and technology investments, Deno also continues to attribute Bloomin’ Brands’ success to the fact that they did not lay off any employees during the pandemic, which helped them stand out from competitors.

“I go into our restaurants and people literally come over to me crying, thanking me for what we did [with no layoffs],” he said. “As a result, engagement is high and turnover is low. […] There are some staffing issues from time to time, but I don’t think we have the same issues as our competitors have.”

Moving forward as the restaurant industry begins to look with a wary eye toward rising COVID-19 rates with the prevalence of the delta variant, particularly in areas of the country with low rates of vaccination, Deno said that they feel prepared for any new mandates or closures:

“We are ready with our multi-channel business to handle things that may come our way,” he said. Now the CDC came out with guidance on masks and vaccines and we're still digesting all that language and trying to understand what the markets will look like in different states and municipalities as we move forward.”

Bloomin’ Brands reported revenue of $1.1 billion for the second quarter ended June 27, up 86.2% from 2020 and driven by higher off- and on-premises sales. Their net income was $84.86 million or $0.81 earnings per share, up from a loss of $92.4 million the same quarter last year or $0.74 earnings per share, and down from $154.7 million the same quarter of 2019.

As of June 27, 2021, Bloomin’ Brands had 1,484 restaurants systemwide, for a net gain of eight stores.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

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