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Outback Steakhouse fires up app with wait list, payments features

The news was revealed in a conference call with analysts to discuss parent company Bloomin’ Brands’ latest quarterly financial results, which saw revenues decline slightly. The company also said that any future apps will dovetail with its cross-brand Dine Rewards program.

“We’ve been working on this app for a long time and we’re very excited about it,” said Elizabeth Smith, CEO at Bloomin’ Brands, during the conference call. “It’s going to solve a lot of pain points, it’s going to allow you to virtually check in to see where you are in the waitlist, to pay at the table and go and we’re going to have some support for that as well.”

Digital investment
Outback Steakhouse already offers The Outback 363 app, which enables users to see wait times, add their name to the wait list, view special offers and order online.

The new app launching later this year is part of a strategic initiative to reinvigorate the Outback Steakhouse brand. One of the key elements of the strategy is investing in digital.

Offering the ability for diners to virtually check where they are on the waiting list is an example of how mobile technology can bring added convenience for customers by enabling time-crunched consumers to show up at a restaurant when their table is ready and not have to waste time waiting for it. This is not a commonly available feature in restaurant apps but is likely to become more commonplace in the future.

Mobile payments
Giving customers the ability to pay the table from the app and not have to wait for the wait staff to bring them bill and process the payment is becoming a more popular service because it can increase customer satisfaction. This functionality also improves the overall performance of a restaurant as wait staff is freed up to attend to other diners.

Last fall, Outback Steakhouse claimed to be the only national chain to offer mobile access to real-time data about wait times for tables (see story).

The chain has also been ramping up its use of social media by delivering Instagram-only content to mobile users that is designed to highlight the flavors, sights and sounds that make the restaurant an authority on steak, proving that national chains must have a stronghold on social media when promoting menu items (see story).

Loyalty’s role
Looking ahead, loyalty could play a bigger part in Outback Steakhouse’s mobile strategy.

Bloomin’ Brands suggested this week that it is looking at some kind of integration between the app and its loyalty program, Dine Rewards which is offered across all four of its brands: Outback Steakhouse, Carraba’s, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s. Members can earn 50 percent of their check by visiting any of these locations three times within six months.

“We really like what we see with our Dine Rewards program,” Ms. Smith said. “Having four brands allows us to have a loyalty program that people don’t get tired with because they can dine across the four brands.

“We’ve expanded into Georgia this year, out of its five test markets,” she said.

“Any app that we would come out with in the future would dovetail really nicely with the loyalty program.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York