Get ready for a new look at an old favorite restaurant chain — Outback Steakhouse chose Charlotte to debut its new store model that also includes a local touch.
The recently opened Outback Steakhouse at 2128 Freeman Park Drive in Steele Creek is one of only three stores in the country with the “Next Gen” design. The Australian-themed steakhouse has a new contemporary design with an open floor plan, technology and kitchen upgrades, and dedicated take-out space.
The store is also smaller than a typical Outback.
The 5,000-square-foot design optimizes kitchen space with upgraded technology and equipment for efficiency. However, Outback maintains the typical seating for 187 people similar to its other 6,000-square-foot locations.
“The smaller size also allows us to bring restaurants to areas where larger units may not have been possible,” Outback President Brett Patterson said in a statement.
Outback started planning the new store prototype in early 2020, before the pandemic. A separate, dedicated takeout and curbside pickup area has been added. Outback has always had a strong take-away business, Patterson said, but it has grown to 30% of the business compared to 15% before the COVID pandemic.
Patterson said the Steele Creek store, near Interstate 485 and Charlotte Premium Outlets, was ideal with the population growth to Lake Wylie.
“We know that’s a market where we have the opportunity to add more restaurants,” Patterson told The Charlotte Observer on Thursday.
Charlotte was one of the first Outback Steakhouse markets when the Dilworth restaurant opened in 1991, Patterson said. There are now about 14 stores in the Charlotte area.
“It’s always been a really good market for us, and Steele Creek was a great opportunity to expand our business,” Patterson said.
Another highlight at the Steele Creek store is a wall painting. Outback Steakhouse commissioned Charlotte artist Lindsey Jenneman, owner of Lemme Paint Dat, to create murals for Steele Creek and other stores across the country.
About the Charlotte artist
Along with the decor of ceiling lights meant to reflect the stars in the Australian flag is “edgy” art, according to Outback.
At Steele Creek, Jenneman painted the head of a colorful blue-hued koala donning a large jeweled gold crown on a wood-slat wall. Underneath are the words “Queen City.” Jenneman told The Charlotte Observer that she calls him “Charlie.”
The New Orleans native moved with husband Dakota to Charlotte over a year ago by way of Tampa, Florida. The mother of two daughters, ages 1 and 3, said an Outback representative reached out to her via Instagram. Jenneman had painted 500 commissioned pet portraits over three years and other fine arts projects.
Outback Steakhouse has commissioned Jenneman to paint community-specific murals for at least 12 stores across the country, each with a specific community theme.
“I can’t believe just months ago I was doing $100 pet portraits,” Jenneman said. “I wouldn’t have ever dreamt this would happen.”
What else is new at Outback Steakhouse?
The Steele Creek store includes a handful of new menu items not available yet at other Charlotte-area locations.
The smoked porterhouse steak is served on a wood platter with a glass dome. Hickory smoke is pumped into the dome, which Patterson said is great for both presentation and flavor.
Other additions include mustard-glazed pork shops and brussel sprouts.
Remodels are likely at other Charlotte locations, too, Patterson said. A timeframe for those projects has not been established.
Two other stores with the new store prototype are in Fort Worth, Texas, and Polaris, Ohio. Outback plans to build 75 to 100 more restaurants in the U.S.
“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to grow in the Charlotte market,” Patterson said. He did not offer any specifics.
Outback Steakhouse in Steele Creek has about 130 full- and part-time employees.
The 34-year-old company based in Tampa, Florida, is owned by Bloomin’ Brands. Other Bloomin’ brands are Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.