Bloomin' Brands execs discuss IPO

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Bloomin’ Brands Inc., parent to the Outback Steakhouse chain, began its first day of trading on what company officials have dubbed “Bloomin’ Wednesday.”

Late Tuesday, on the eve of the Nasdaq debut, the company slashed the price of the stock to $11 per share, lower than the previous target of $13 to $15 per share, and the size of the offering was reduced to 16 million from the 21 million stated earlier.

The company’s stock opened at $11.60 and by midday had climbed roughly 12 percent.

The day marks a return to the public market for Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands, previously known as OSI Restaurant Partners Inc., which was a public company before being taken private in mid-2007 by a group including private-equity firms Bain Capital and Catterton Partners. Bain will continue to hold a majority stake in the company following the IPO, and Catterton will hold a minority position.

Liz Smith, Bloomin’ Brands chair and chief executive, and David Deno, the company’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News early Wednesday to talk about the future of Outback, along with sister brands Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and Roy’s.

The company's stock price was lowered late Tuesday to $11 and it opened at $11.60. Can you speak about that?

Smith: We are really excited about Bloomin’ Wednesday and having completed this IPO process. For us, it’s a real day of celebration. We have assembled a group of dream team investors and I couldn’t be happier about the quality of it. This is day one of our journey and we’re going to continue to execute our strategy and build on that nine to 10 quarters of above-market [same-store sales] growth, and frankly, the stock price will take care of itself.

What will a return to the public markets mean for the core brands going forward?

Smith: It was the right time for us. We had an incredible three years of brand rejuvenation and renovation. We’ve really enhanced our management team and structure. We’ve always had the best operators in the business, but now we have some incredible talent that we’ve also brought in to balance that. So the timing was right to step back in the public spotlight. What it means for us is always continuing to deliver a superior experience across all five brands. Our mission is nurturing these founder-inspired brands and delivering the best experience. That doesn’t change.

When you joined the company in late 2009, the recession had taken a toll; same-store sales were in negative double digits at that point. What really turned things around for Outback?

Smith: We always had this portfolio of founder-inspired brands that were the highest quality out there. When you walk into our restaurants, they do not feel like they were conceived around a conference room table. So we had that positive DNA, and customers always remarked, even in toughest of times, that the quality you get for the price was unmatched. But, honestly, we had a lot of work to do. We had not changed much in 20 years. We hadn’t really changed our menu or updated our ambiance.

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