Elizabeth Smith had an unconventional path to the chief executive job at Bloomin’ Brands Inc. Smith made several sharp turns in her career serving president roles at Avon Products Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. before entering the foodservice industry in 2009 as CEO and chairperson of Bloomin’ Brands.
This ability to adapt to new challenges should serve Smith well as steers several casual-dining brands — Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Bonefish Grill — through a slow-growth period for the segment as a whole.
Smith is pursuing simultaneous initiatives intended to differentiate Outback and its sibling concepts. Across the entire company, Smith is looking to protect profit growth through labor and marketing efficiencies while investing heavily in new digital platforms to meet changing customer needs.
In late 2014 she recruited Donagh Herlihy away from Avon and appointed him chief information officer, tasking him with exploring such customer-facing amenities as table tablets and mobile payment.
Outback launched a new website in November, and was testing a new app in Tampa, Fla. to launch systemwide.
“The new app will allow guests to control their experience from beginning to end,” Smith said in a conference call with analysts in November.
“It will integrate our Click Thru Seating feature to get on the waitlist before arrival, allow guests to view the menu while waiting, and end their visit with the ability to pay at the table.”
Smith’s biggest initiative of late has been the nationwide launch of lunch at Outback. Expansion into the new daypart for Outback could add about $1 billion in incremental sales if the chain can achieve the 10-percent market share it enjoys at dinner, the company has said.