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Bloomin-Outback-Coronavirus-Reopen-Dining-Rooms.jpg Bloomin' Brands Inc.
Bloomin' expects to have "substantially all" its U.S. restaurants open by the end of June.

Bloomin’ returns dine-in to about three-quarters of U.S. company units

Outback Steakhouse parent offers new protocols, including letting patrons wait in cars

Bloomin’ Brands Inc., parent to the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Kitchen and other brands, has reopened dine-in capacity at about three-quarters of its U.S. restaurants and expects to have some indoor seating at “substantially all” of its domestic dining rooms by the end of June, the company said Thursday.

The Tampa, Fla.-based casual-dining company, which also owns the Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, said that as of June 7 it had 760 company-operated U.S. restaurants offering limited in-restaurant dining, though operations had changed since state and local governments had imposed coronavirus restrictions.

For example, customers are allowed to wait in their autos until their tables are ready.

“We are leveraging our table management notification system to allow guests to wait in their cars for their table,” said David Deno, Bloomin’ Brands CEO, in a business update.

The company has also instituted additional sanitation and disinfecting measures, enhanced hand-washing, use of gloves and face coverings for employees and contactless payment options for customers.

“Each dining room seating configuration has been modified to adhere to social distancing and reduced capacity standards,” Deno said.

For its Outback brand, which had 373 restaurants open for dine-in service as of June 7, same-store sales were down 13.6% from the prior-year period.

“We are encouraged by these sales trends as we begin to reopen our dining rooms,” Deno said. “By the end of the month, we expect to have substantially all our domestic restaurant dining rooms opened with limited seating capacity.”

Across all four of its brands, Bloomin’ said same-store sales had improved from negative 42.2% in the week ended May 10 to negative 28.3% in the week ended June 6.

By brand in that five-week period, the company said same-store sales improved for: Outback, to negative 24.7% from negative 32.8%; Carrabba’s, to negative 21.4% from negative 39%; Bonefish, to negative 40.5% from negative 62.4%; and Fleming’s, to negative 45.2% from negative 66.9%.

Dine-in capacity by brand in the week ended June 10 included: 373 Outback; 153 Carrabba’s; 133 Bonefish; and 48 Fleming’s. Other stores were offering off-premise service.

Deno said that with the COVID-19 restrictions in March Bloomin’ had made the decision not to furlough employees, which smoothed the reopening of dine-in service.

“Our decision to not furlough any employees during this pandemic has allowed us to quickly prepare our restaurants for the reopening of dining rooms in a safe and efficient manner,” he said.

The company was “tightly managing” its cash burn. As of June 11, Bloomin’ said it had total liquidity position of $493 million, which included about $128 million of cash and $365 million of revolving-credit capacity.

“Our liquidity position over the last several weeks has improved due to increased sales performance, working capital inflows and earned tax credits for employee relief pay related to the CARES Act,” the company said, referring to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump on March 27.

Bloomin’ Brands has more than 1,450 restaurants in 48 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 20 countries.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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