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Shares of Outback Steakhouse owner plummet 8% as company struggles to woo diners

  • Soft same-store sales and lackluster earnings sent shares of Bloomin' Brands plummeting as much as 10 percent on Wednesday.
  • The company's CEO pointed to increases in new restaurant openings and the growing trend of diners eating at home as major factors contributing to the slowing industry traffic.
  • "We have also seen improvement in key indicators such as employment, confidence and wage growth that suggests the state of the consumer is better," Elizabeth Smith, CEO of Bloomin' Brands, said Wednesday. "While this improvement is positive, we've yet to see a meaningful change in measured casual dining restaurant industry traffic."
Outback Steakhouse in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
Diane Macdonald | Getty Images
Outback Steakhouse in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

Sales at casual dining restaurants may be on the mend, but the sector's upturn wasn't enough for Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin' Brands.

"We have seen some strengthening of casual dining sales trends over the past two quarters since a significant pullback of the industry in Q4 2016," Elizabeth Smith, CEO of Bloomin' Brands, said during an earnings conference call Wednesday.

"We have also seen improvement in key indicators such as employment, confidence and wage growth that suggests the state of the consumer is better. While this improvement is positive, we've yet to see a meaningful change in measured casual dining restaurant industry traffic," she said.

Smith pointed to increases in new restaurant openings and the growing trend of diners eating at home as major factors contributing to the slowing industry traffic.

Earlier, the company, which also owns Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, reported soft same-store sales and lackluster earnings, which send shares of the company plummeting as much as 8 percent.

While earnings were in line with Wall Street's estimates, revenue fell short.

Bloomin' Brands reported second-quarter adjusted earnings of 28 cents per share on revenue of $1.03 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of 28 cents per share on revenue of $1.04 billion, according to Thomson Reuters estimates.

During the quarter, Bloomin' Brands pulled back on its discounts and instead invested that money into improving the customer experience at its restaurants and its loyalty program, hoping that would bring in diners.

"We believe our investment priorities are appropriately in line with this landscape," Smith said. "It is more important than ever to elevate the 360 degree experience in our restaurant to provide differentiated dining occasions. And that effort is well underway and gaining traction."

While Carrabba's posted its highest same-store sales growth in eight quarters, and rose higher than analysts' forecasts, the rest of Bloomin' Brand's chains posted weaker-than-expected same-store sales.

The company said during the call Wednesday that Flemings' same-store sales suffered in the quarter as the company works to reduce its reliance on discounting.

Bonefish Grill's same-store sales were stronger last year, buoyed up by the chain's first ever television campaign. However, the company did not continue these advertisements in 2017, causing same-store sales to fall.

Outback Steakhouse posted weaker-than expected same-store sales, but the growth was the highest the chain has seen since the second quarter 2015.