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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 2 weeks ago

Down Under cuisine on an upswing

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Outback Steakhouse's fast-casual cousin, Aussie Grill, finds a foothold both at home and abroad.

Getting a piece of the fast-growing fast-casual dining concept continues to push restaurant brands toward expansion. The latest entry is Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands, parent of Outback Steakhouse and other brands. 

Bloomin' recently doubled down on the popularity of its Australian-themed restaurant chain with Aussie Grill, a fast-casual concept that debuted last year in Saudi Arabia and then expanded to Hong Kong.

With a menu stocked with sandwiches, burgers and salads, Aussie Grill eschews table-side service of chains like its parent, Outback, and others. In a news release, Bloomin’ says the concept was developed for international markets, but it has opened two in the Tampa Bay area, with a third on the way.

The latest — at 25340 Sierra Center Blvd., Lutz — will be the first freestanding Aussie Grill and the first to offer drive-thru service when it opens in the spring. A groundbreaking was held Dec. 12. 

“Aussie Grill is all about taste adventure, with fresh, high-quality food prepared to order, served in a fast-casual setting in under four minutes,” Aussie Grill President Suk Singh states in the release. “Our first stand-alone restaurant with a drive-thru will add even more convenience for guests.”

Aussie Grill’s other two Tampa Bay area restaurants are both in shopping malls: International Plaza in Tampa and Westfield Brandon. The former opened in April while the latter opened in November.

The first U.S. Aussie Grill was originally conceived as an incubator to test ideas for the international menu, Bloomin’ officials say in the release. But the brand proved more popular with American customers than anticipated, which led the company to focus on additional domestic expansion.

Bloomin' Brands (NYSE: BLMN) reported revenue of $4.13 billion in 2018, down from $4.22 billion in 2017. 

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