A co-branded Outback Steakhouse-Carrabba’s Italian Grill “express” that only does takeout and delivery orders has opened in Florida.

Mike Pomranz
November 07, 2017

Need more proof that delivery is taking the restaurant industry by storm? Beyond the unfathomably large number of delivery apps that continue to the flood the market… Beyond the fact that you can now order delivery through everything from Twitter to Facebook Messenger to even your workplace’s Slack account… Beyond the increasing number of chains going all-in on delivery from McDonald’s to T.G.I. Fridays… Now it appears that increased demand for takeout and delivery is driving traditional sit-down restaurant brands like Outback Steakhouse to open tiny to-go-only stands.

Bloomin’ Brands—the parent company behind four restaurant chains: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar – has recently taken its two best known brands and put them under one extremely tiny roof. Bloomin’ opened an Outback Steakhouse-Carrabba’s Italian Grill “express” that focuses exclusively on takeout and delivery orders in Hollywood, Florida. Think of it’s as the casual dining equivalent of a joint Taco Bell-KFC. And according to the company’s most recent earnings call, Bloomin’ is planning to open three or four more of these hybrid, express restaurants over the next two months.

“Off-premise represents a significant and incremental structural tailwind for the industry,” Bloomin’ CEO Liz Smith said, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Overall, Smith said she hopes to increase takeout and delivery orders to as much as 25 percent of the business’s sales, and that looking at the results from these express units can help guide the brand’s strategy at their more traditional sit-down locations as well. “We see the growing off-premise as a big opportunity for us,” she stated.

But as interesting as this model may be, you have to wonder whether offering takeout-only locations will dilute these two brands’ appeal as traditional restaurants. For now, diners might not even care: They just want what they want. As a separate example, Scott Colosi, president of Texas Roadhouse Inc., said that his chain has seen a consistent increase in to-go sales for years now, before adding, “We don’t advertise to-go, either.” The customer is always right.

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