Declining job openings, CEO rating shows trouble down under for Bloomin' Brands

1 month ago by Amy Lamare in Facts, Trends

In 1987 Australia was celebrating its bicentennial, the America’s Cup was happening down under, Crocodile Dundee was a Hollywood and pop culture sensation, and clothing brand Koala Blue was selling like crazy. Americans were obsessed with all things Aussie, and Tampa hospitality veterans Bob Basham, Trudy Cooper, Chris Sullivan, and Tim Gannon looked to ride this wave with Outback Steakhouse ($NASDAQ:BLMN).

Just over three decades later, the restaurant, now under Bloomin' Brands along with Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, is in a bit of a sticky wicket.

One of Bloomin' Brands' investors, Barrington Capital, recently called for the company to sell off the three smaller chains, focus on Outback, and fire current CEO Liz Smith. This situation becomes more complex when data is thrown into the mix, as the company looks to ease pressure from investors before it gets cooked well done.

Although there are few reviews of the parent company itself, the employees who did submit their reviews anonymously about Bloomin' Brands are backing Smith (for the most part).

Historical Glassdoor data reveals a positive review surge in late March and early April, when 19 reviews flooded in during that span and counteracted a crater of a 40% approval rating.

This spike in positive reviews came in the weeks before Jana Capital, another activist investor, sold off $49 million in shares of the company.

Grilling Outback on declining job openings, employee sentiment

When looking at the Outback brand and its president Gregg Smith specifically, his CEO approval rating has declined consistantly since June 2017.

Furthermore, on the jobs front, Outback restaurants have been on a hiring decline since 2017, according to its job listings data. Mainly, these listed positions are for restaurant managers across America.

One explanation for this could be found in one of Outback's latest reviews on Glassdoor, as a self-described server anonymously complained that there was a case of shuffling restaurant managers in the company.

Still, sales are fair dinknum 

On the other hand, Outback has consistently been Bloomin' Brands' best performer among all of its restaurants.

For the third quarter of this year — July 2, 2018 through September 30, 2018 — same-store sales were up 4.6% at Outback locations in America. When compared to 1.8% and 0.5% increases for Bonefish and Fleming’s, as well as a 0.6% slip for Carrabba’s, the reasoning behind a brand split argument starts to make a bit more sense.

From its origins in Tampa, Florida in March 1988, Outback has expanded to 752 open restaurants in the United States, and another 250 in international markets. And while its parent company faces an identity crisis, Outback at least isn't taking the walkabout in terms of sales.

Amy Lamare

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