Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin' Brands beats Wall Street forecast in first quarter

Posted April 28, 2018 12:07 p.m. EDT

TAMPA -- Growing sales at Outback Steakhouse have once again led parent company Bloomin' Brands to beat Wall Street's expectations, the latest quarterly report shows.

But the Tampa-based restaurant group's other chains are failing to keep up.

Bloomin' Brands reported first-quarter earnings of $65.4 million and adjusted earnings per share at 71 cents. The group, which includes causal chain eateries such as Bonefish Grill and Carrabba's, posted $1.12 billion in revenue.

Eight Wall Street analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research had forecast earnings at just 58 cents per share and $1.1 billion in revenue.

"The first quarter was a strong start to what we believe will be a very good year for Bloomin' Brands," CEO Liz Smith told investors during a Thursday morning conference call.

"At Outback, sales and traffic remained well above the industry, and it is clear that our investments in the customer experience are working."

Outback's sales were up 4.3 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017, according to the Bloomin' Brands report.

Carrabba's sales grew by .9 percent and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse by 2.8 percent. Sales at Bonefish Grill, however, dropped by .1 percent.

Smith told investors that Outback's ambience updates, meal portion increases and the restaurant group's 6 million new rewards program members helped lead to a strong first quarter.

After success updating the exteriors of Outbacks across the country, Smith said the company will spend the next three years overhauling interiors.

As for struggling Bonefish, Smith said the company is continuing to give stores more control of their menus so they can serve local fresh fish. She described the efforts as making Bonefish the "unchained chain."

The company first announced it would begin closing Bonefish locations after a 5.4 percent sales drop in 2016. Its online directory lists 191 locations, 50 of which are in Florida, still operating.

Smith also said the company plans to expand its carry-out only model -- such as the store being tested on Gandy Boulevard in Tampa offering Carrabba's and Outback meals -- as well as delivery options, which are offered at 240 locations now.

The Bloomin' Brands company forecast puts full-year earnings between $1.38 and $1.45 per share.

When the market opened Thursday morning, Bloomin' Brands stocks were just over $24 per share.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.