Major Steakhouse Chain Closes 41 Locations

By: Sam Watanuki | Last updated: Apr 23, 2024

Bloomin’ Brands, the powerhouse behind Outback Steakhouse and other popular dining spots, is closing 41 of its locations. 

“Closing restaurants is never easy. This was a business decision that has no reflection on the staff or their service,” the company shared in a statement.

Opportunities Amidst Closures

Despite the closures, Bloomin’ Brands is ensuring a silver lining for affected employees. 

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An Outback Steakhouse location during twilight with neon red signage illuminated, adjacent to a dark parking lot and a building with a Spanish tile roof.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many will have the chance to transfer to other locations, while those who can’t will be offered severance packages to aid their transition.

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Strategic Business Moves

During an earnings call, Bloomin’ Brands CEO David Deno disclosed, “We periodically review our asset base and, in our latest review, we made the decision to close 41 underperforming locations,” as Nation’s Restaurant News reported. 

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Aerial view of an Outback Steakhouse building showing a crowded parking lot, with the restaurant's distinctive red and brown color scheme and entrance signage

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This move is part of a larger effort to streamline operations.

Out with the Old

The closures primarily affect older sites, with leases from the ’90s and early 2000s.

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The iconic Outback Steakhouse sign in bold red letters against a clear blue sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 The company is focusing on refreshing its portfolio and keeping its offerings up-to-date.

Analyzing the Decision

According to Deno, the closures were influenced by multiple factors, including sales performance and the financial investments required for renovations. 

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A plated Outback Steakhouse meal featuring a juicy steak, lobster tail, loaded baked potato, and steamed broccoli served on a wooden table

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

The goal is to pave the way for a more profitable future.

Growth on the Horizon

Despite recent closures, Bloomin’ Brands is optimistic about its future. 

An Outback Steakhouse building at night, lit by warm lighting, with palm trees decorated with string lights adding to the ambiance

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

Plans are underway to open 40 to 45 new locations next year. “Despite this initiative, our confidence in our portfolio remains high,” Deno said.

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Broad Impact Across the Brand

The closures have impacted several of Bloomin’ Brands’ chains.

The facade of Bonefish Grill at dusk, with its distinctive logo illuminated by exterior lights, parked cars in the foreground, and a neighboring business with red lettering on its sign

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These include Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, with 33 restaurants already closed as of last Friday.

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Outback Bears the Brunt

Outback Steakhouse is enduring the heaviest impact, with the most significant number of closures. 

A traditional Outback Steakhouse restaurant on a clear day with a green roof, the signature Outback logo, and an "OPEN FOR LUNCH" banner fluttering in the breeze, amidst well-manicured landscaping

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bloomin’ Brands has opted not to release a detailed list of the affected locations.

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Global Presence Still Strong

Despite the closures, Bloomin’ Brands maintains a strong global presence.

A close-up view of a meal at Outback Steakhouse, featuring a juicy steak with fries, a blooming onion, and a bowl of fresh fruit salad in the foreground, with the Outback Steakhouse menu visible

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

They have 1,480 restaurants worldwide, including hundreds of Outback Steakhouses in the U.S.

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A Fresh Look for Outback

Outback Steakhouse is gearing up for growth, not just reduction. 

A modern Outback Steakhouse building with bold red accents on the facade and a spacious parking lot, under a sky with soft clouds

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

In May 2022, the chain announced plans to open up to 100 new restaurants featuring modern, technology-enhanced designs.

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Modernizing the Outback Experience

The new Outback locations will boast a more compact, efficient layout with a contemporary design that incorporates Australian-inspired elements.

A table view of Outback Steakhouse takeout meals packed in aluminum trays and brown paper bags with the restaurant's logo, accompanied by black plastic utensils

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

USA Today reports that the focus is on enhancing delivery and catering services.

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The Future of Outback Steakhouse

Brett Patterson, President of Outback Steakhouse, captured the essence of the new design, saying, “This new restaurant design features the Aussie spirit of Outback from the moment you arrive at the restaurant.” 

The Outback Steakhouse sign glowing in neon red against the night sky, towering above surrounding foliage

Source: Outback Steakhouse - National/Facebook

With these changes, Bloomin’ Brands is clearly focused on propelling its flagship brand towards a dynamic and promising future.

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Industry-wide Challenges in the Restaurant Sector

The restaurant industry faces a significant upheaval, with numerous establishments filing for bankruptcy or closing doors permanently.

Interior view of an Applebee's restaurant in the evening showing booths and tables with red and tan upholstery, promotional signs on the tables, and a bar area with televisions in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like Bloomin’ Brands, many are grappling with economic pressures that force them to reconsider their business models. This trend reflects broader economic challenges that threaten the stability of even well-established brands.

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LeBron James Reacts to Outback Closures

According to WKYC 3, NBA star LeBron James expressed his surprise and disappointment over the closure of the Akron Outback Steakhouse location, responding to Savannah James’ Instagram story with, “OMFG!!! Why why why,” followed by some teary-eyed emojis.

Lebron James smiling

Source: Bleacher Report/Twitter

Having been the location of their first date, James’ reaction shows the nostalgic and cultural significance of such chains in everyday American life.

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Economic Factors Driving Restaurant Closures

Steakhouse chains like Bloomin’ Brands are particularly vulnerable to shifts in economic conditions, such as fluctuating consumer spending and rising meat prices, which could hit record highs this year, according to The Hill.

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Source: Freepik

These factors have been pivotal in the recent closures, as companies struggle to balance cost management with maintaining quality and service.

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Community Impact of Bloomin’ Brands Closures

The shuttering of 41 locations has profound effects on local economies, affecting not only employees but also suppliers and service providers.

A restaurant worker is pictured smiling as he delivers two plates of food

Source: Freepik

Community leaders have called for support mechanisms to assist those displaced by the closures, emphasizing the interconnectedness of local businesses and major chains.

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Employee Transition Plans

In light of the closures, Bloomin’ Brands has announced plans to prioritize employee retention and transition during this period.

The manager of a restaurant smiles at the camera while holding a tablet

Source: Adobe Stock

The company aims to relocate employees to nearby locations or provide them with compensation.

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Strategies to Combat Industry Downturn

Will other Outback locations be able to weather the storm?

A stack of dollar bills and coins sits atop a receipt on a white plate

Source: Getty Images/Fuse

While closures are difficult to predict, chains can mitigate risk by diversifying their offerings, promoting delivery and takeout options, and investing in technology for improved efficiency.

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Public Reaction and Brand Loyalty

The public’s reaction to the closures has been mixed, with many expressing loyalty to the brand despite the changes.

A view of the show floor of the National Restaurant Association.

Source: Mr. Blue MauMau/Wikimedia

Bloomin’ Brands has actively engaged with its customer base to reassure them of the company’s plans and commitment to quality, aiming to preserve its brand reputation.

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Comparison with Other Major Chains

Comparatively, chains like Texas Roadhouse and LongHorn Steakhouse have also felt the pinch but have navigated the turbulent waters with different strategies to prevent closures (via the Werdaan Blog), such as expanding takeout services.

he entrance of a Chili's restaurant with a stone facade and red striped awning. The restaurant's sign is displayed prominently in red against a backdrop of greenery and a clear sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These insights could provide valuable lessons for Bloomin’ Brands in its path forward.

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Future of Casual Restaurants

The landscape for steakhouses is evolving, with a shift towards more casual dining experiences that cater to current consumer preferences for convenience and value.

Interior of a 'Red Lobster' restaurant with a nautical theme. The space features wood paneling, maritime decor, and a live seafood tank. Large letters spelling 'SEAFOOD LOBSTER' are mounted on the wall

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This transition may redefine the future of dining out, particularly for chains like Outback Steakhouse looking to attract a broader clientele.

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Innovative Responses to Economic Pressures

Restaurants are increasingly turning to innovative menu options and pricing strategies to attract diners in a cost-sensitive environment.

Person looking over a menu at a restaurant

Source: Freepik

Limited-time offers and specialty dishes are becoming a common strategy to draw customers without compromising on profitability.

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Potential for Recovery and Expansion

Despite the current downturn, there is potential for recovery.

A man in a black server jacket is pictured working on a tablet behind the counter

Source: Freepik

Bloomin’ Brands plans to open new locations, focusing on innovative designs and enhanced service models to regain momentum and expand its market presence (via Eat This, Not That).

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Strategic Outlook

Bloomin’ Brands faces significant challenges but also opportunities for innovation and growth.

Two women are enjoying a meal at a crowded restaurant. The woman in the foreground is sipping a glass of rose wine, while the other appears engaged in conversation, holding a piece of food

Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

By adapting to industry trends and focusing on strategic expansion, the company can navigate the uncertainties of the market and strive towards a promising future.

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