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Outback Steakhouse’s guest-centric mobile app features payment, wait list options

Outback Steakhouse is introducing a mobile application that enables diners to pay the bill directly from their smartphones and place their names on the wait list for a table, foreshadowing the restaurant chain’s summer rollout of a new loyalty program.

The Bloomin’ Onion marketer is hoping to give customers more control over their dining experiences with the release of the guest-centric app, which also includes exclusive mobile coupons. Outback Steakhouse is adding more digital initiatives to its menu of mobile services as it readies consumers for the national launch of its first multi-brand rewards platform in several months, which will be implemented into the mobile app.

“[Leveraging mobile strategy] allows us to provide a rich experience on many levels, offering convenience and greater engagement with our guests,” said Elizabeth Watts, director of media and community relations for Bloomin’ Brands Inc. “From the touch of their phone, guests can browse the menu, get on the wait list, check in and pay their bill – so they have more control in their dining experience.”

Serving up new experiences
Outback is traveling down the path paved by pay-at-the-table apps, such as OpenTable, by allowing customers to pay the check directly from their smartphones. This eliminates the need for consumers to flag down their servers and wait for the bill to be delivered. Instead, the new app feature places the dining experience in customers’ control by letting them check out at their leisure.

Additionally, these payment tools come in handy for large parties of guests. App users will be able to split a check, add a tip and save payment details for future transactions.

Pay-at-the-table options remove stress for restaurant staff as well. If customers can be left to their own devices to pay the bill, servers can devote more time to accurately taking orders and checking on their other tables.

Digital payment solutions will also become available on in the coming months.

Additionally, individuals can use the company’s new app to augment their pre-dining experiences. The Pick Your Steak! tool lets users browse nearby Outback restaurants’ menus to help narrow down their cravings for a specific type of steak.

Meanwhile, consumers planning to visit an Outback location during a busy time can take advantage of the wait list feature. They may place their names on a virtual list prior to arriving at the restaurant and receive in-app notifications informing them when their tables are ready.

Investing in mobile wait list options could be a valuable strategy for a plethora of restaurant chains, especially those experiencing high volumes of diners during peak times.

Bloomin’ up loyalty
Outback is also leveraging the new app to help segue into the chain’s new Bloomin Brands’ Dine Rewards program, which is set to arrive this summer. The company is planning to implement additional digital enhancements to its current offerings as it prepares for the launch, which is described as Outback’s first multi-brand loyalty program.

Consumers who complete three visits to any Bloomin’ Brands restaurants – including Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill – will earn up to 50 percent off their next visit. The platform will be fully accessible online and on mobile.

Last year, Chili’s served up a double helping of mobile with a new loyalty program that integrated with the chain’s order-and-pay tablets as well as a new service for texting guests when their reserved tables are ready (see story).

Presently, Outback customers can receive exclusive offers that can be stored within the app’s Offer Pouch and redeemed for future meals. The Offer Pouch will apply eligible discounts directly to consumers’ bills so that the coupons will not need to be printed out.

Outback believes the new mobile-centric features will help improve customer choice, convenience and control over in-restaurant experiences.

“The simplicity of the app is very nice – it delivers what our guests want without getting lost in too many bells and whistles,” Ms. Watts said. “The pay feature is exciting because we’ve received great feedback during our testing phase and we’re the only casual dining steakhouse to offer that capability.”