Restaurant company Bloomin’ Brands announced this week that its Outback Steakhouse brand has partnered with DoorDash for an exclusive delivery program. Not only does the deal make Outback the largest steakhouse available via the DoorDash platform, it also puts the chain on a growing list of restaurants applying a more hybrid approach to delivery, one that utilizes a combination of third-party services and in-house capabilities.
Bloomin’ has actually spent the last couple of years developing an in-house delivery program used by both Outback and another of its brands, Carrabba’s. With this program, customers place orders directly via the Outback or Carrabba’s apps and the company handles its own drivers to transport the food from the restaurant to the customer’s doorstep.
But on the company’s recent Q2 earnings call, Bloomin’ CEO Dave Deno noted that, “We recently came to terms of the national third-party delivery provider. This channel will complement our existing platform. Importantly this will help expand our reach to customers who are loyal to the third-party delivery companies.”
It’s not a surprising conclusion for a company to draw, given that third-party delivery apps like those from DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats are expected to have upwards of 44 million users by 2020 in the U.S. alone.
The DoorDash partnership will act to complement, rather than replace, Bloomin’s existing in-house program. It also makes Outback and Bloomin’ the latest in a series of restaurant companies adopting a hybrid approach to delivery, where incoming orders come from both the restaurant’s in-house app as well as those of third-party delivery services. Panera, one of the most well-known chains to keep delivery operations in house, announced in August it was adding multiple third-party partners to its strategy.
For Outback, the move to add third-party delivery is also in keeping with a trend highlighted in another report, Toast’s recent Restaurant Success in 2029 survey. That report noted the amount of variety today’s restaurant customers look for in terms of delivery options, and suggested large restaurant chains use a combination of both in-house functionality and third-party delivery apps.
However, the Toast report also said it was “extremely important for restaurants to be represented across multiple third-party delivery platforms.” In that sense, Outback is going against the tide in some respects by signing an exclusive deal with DoorDash. Even McDonald’s recently ended its longstanding exclusive deal with Uber Eats to add more third-party services.
This week’s press release noted that Bloomin’ chose DoorDash as its delivery partner “for the next phase of its omnichannel approach to delivery” for Outback. That could well mean the company plans to add more partners in future as it continues its navigating the phases of its delivery strategy.