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Elizabeth 'Liz' Smith, CEO, Bloomin' Brands
When Elizabeth Smith joined Tampa, Fla.-based Bloomin’ Brands Inc. as CEO in 2009, the company was reporting millions in net loss on revenue and a continued period of negative same-store sales.
At the time, her outgoing predecessor, Bill Allen, who served as CEO from 2005 to 2009, told Nation’s Restaurant News that Smith “has demonstrated exceptional brand-building prowess, operational expertise and leadership ability.”
Smith has more than lived up to that characterization.
At Bloomin’ Brands, which has over 1,500 restaurants under its umbrella, Smith has been instrumental in responding to consumers’ growing desire for off-premise meals. The company’s off-premise strategy includes expanding delivery, which is currently available at more than 240 of the company’s restaurants, as well as the recent launch of the takeout-only co-branded Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill units. There were five such locations as of July 2018.
Smith brought to her role particular expertise in retail and consumer products, having completed a five-year stint as president at cosmetics company Avon Products Inc., and worked 14 years at Kraft Foods Inc., leaving as group vice president and president of the U.S. beverages and grocery division.
Not only have Smith’s efforts and a change-with-the-consumers leadership approach drawn attention from industry leaders in the casual-dining space and beyond, but also they’ve helped to increase combined same-store sales for Bloomin’ Brands’ U.S. restaurants by 2.9 percent in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.