In Focus
FRANCHISING | Staff Reporter, Australia

Find out more about Outback Steakhouse and the casualisation of Australia's dining market

QSR Media got in touch with the people behind Outback Steakhouse to discuss the brand's plans, community efforts, and the rise of casual dining.

Outback Steakhouse serves steaks that are “wet-aged” in a controlled environment to ensure tenderness and seasoned with a secret blend of 17 herbs and spices. The US-based chain has seven locations in Australia, and is open from 12-noon every day.

QSR Media: What's new at Outback Steakhouse?

In 2017 we have a lot of new initiatives coming to our restaurants. We have a new look and feel, including our branding, menus, store design and ambiance. Launch of new products and the opening of restaurants are some of the group’s investments for the year.

Our new menu items are consistent with our focus in quality and freshness, with recipes made from scratch in our kitchens. It includes Deli Boards (charcuterie, antipasto and cheese boards), salads, steaks and seafood options.

We’ve had a predominant dinner focus and for the first time, due to popular demand, we are now open every day from 12-noon, 7 days a week and we have launched new menus for weekday lunch and happy hour.

Our first restaurant to be opened in 2017 will be at Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast. It will have a new design and will feature an open kitchen to highlight our homemade recipes, and showcase our in-house steak cutting techniques.

QSR Media: Can you tell us more about your community efforts?

For 17 years we have been involved with our local communities and most of our marketing effort is based in grassroots activities.

Every year we cater for over 300 charitable events with BBQ’s, supporting local schools and institutions. We supply our food and service for fundraising events and our partners are proud members of their local communities.

Being a neighborhood restaurant we are very much grounded in our community and the majority of our employees come from the surrounding neighborhood.

QSR Media: What do you think the foodservice industry could do to help growing communities? What's the industry's role in the community?

Our restaurants are part of the local communities and the industry plays a fundamental role in developing local economy. They can hire people from the area, partner with local businesses and dedicate their marketing efforts on charitable activities, for example.

QSR Media: What can you say about customers nowadays? What trends have you noticed?

Customers are more connected and informed about food nowadays. They have the opportunity to choose, compare and evaluate restaurants as there’s now a proliferation of dining options in every town.

There’s been a casualization of the dining market in recent times, shopping centres are now featuring casual dining restaurants not just food courts, and the traditional Aussie pub now does a great job with food.

QSR Media: What can you say are the challenges you are currently facing in the industry? Opportunities?

Beef prices for sure are continuing to rise as the size of the herd has contracted. Cattle prices have been at record highs, so as a steakhouse we definitely have that to contend with.

But for our part we are heavily invested in producing a quality product and do our own butchery in house. Restaurants in general will need to invest to provide a quality experience and differentiate themselves, be it through food quality, customer service or both.

QSR Media: Any big plans you have for the year?

2016 was a period of consolidation for us, making plans for our expansion over the coming years, we have already notched up 17 years and we realise it’s time for a step change. So 2017 will be a watershed year for us, considering all the new initiatives mentioned before such as branding, design, menus and the opening of new restaurants, plus the refurbishment of some of our existing restaurants.

We expect to attract new and existing customers to try our bold flavours and have a great dining experience through some loyalty programmes and we will leverage new media opportunities to take advantage of new technology surrounding restaurant activities. 

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