Flights, accommodations, and meals provided. The honest opinions are my own.
A couple of months ago, I was presented with one of the biggest no-brainer questions ever. Keep in mind, we had a foot of snow on the ground at the time. The questions was “Would you like to visit and learn more about Outback Steakhouse’s headquarters in Tampa, FL. Well, with the combination of steak and warm weather I think I answered yes within a second or so!
A little over a week ago I was in Tampa to take part in the Outback Best Mates program, a group of bloggers brought in to visit the Outback Steakhouse HQ and learn about some upcoming features as well.
We started the event off with a trip to the original Outback Steakhouse which was opened by the original 4 owners on Henderson Blvd in Tampa, FL. Way back in 1988 the 4 original owners of Outback Steakhouse opened up a restaurant that they wanted to break the mold. They set out to provide great food at a great price point. This focus on food included attention to detail the way the customer wanted it, changes and customer requests would be welcomed with open arms and the environment was one where everyone could be comfortable. Here you don’t have to pay $50 for a great steak, if you wanted to wear shorts to Outback Steakhouse . . . go for it, you want to go suit and tie, make yourself at home . . . you want your Bloomin’ Onion served upside down, just ask, after all, at Outback they like to say No Rules, Just Right!
About 20 of us sat down for our meal and we were quickly greeted with just about every appetizer on the menu. It was pretty neat to sit at Outback and essentially enjoy the appetizers ‘family style’ everyone was passing food around and there were a lot of ‘YUMMMMMS’ all around. My favorite appetizers were the Bloomin’ Onion (of course) along with the wings and stuffed mushrooms.
Throughout the meal we were able to pick the brains of some Outback team members and learn about the philosophy of the company and how they go out of the way to provide the perfect customer experience and that rules are worth breaking to ensure a better customer experience.
Next was the main course, a perfectly cooked Wood-Fire Grilled Bone-in-Ribeye which looked and tasted every bit the part of a pricey steakhouse steak, each bite was savory and delicious. Normally I would be sad when this dinner comes to an end, but next was the thrill of the evening.
Mini Milkshakes are one of the best creations ever! These beauties are made to order using Blue Bell Homemade Ice Cream, topped with whipped cream and available in Strawberry, Vanilla, OREO, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup. I was unable to decide between Chocolate and OREO, so . . . I had both! These Mini Milkshakes come served in a little milk glass and a thick paper straw and the experience is as fun as the taste. This is a perfect complement to any meal, and being stuffed isn’t a deterrent because, after all these are mini and perfectly sized!
Our group of stuffed bloggers then hit the town for an evening of bowling and fun. The next morning came pretty quick, mainly because my dreams of Ribeyes and Mini Milkshakes seemed so real, I felt like I was awake the entire night!
We went to Outback’s headquarters and had a chance to spend half the day in their R&D area, I never realized restaurants had their own test kitchens where they conduct ‘Research and Development’ of the food and menu. Here they have a couple of full kitchens for Outback and the other Bloomin’ Brands Restaurants (Bonefish Grill and Carrabas Italian Grill). We got the tour and learned about their processes and were amazed at how long many of the employees had worked there. It seemed like every other employee was there more than 10 years, very impressive, and most in the R&D started in the kitchen of their local Outback and worked their way up, coming to Tampa from everywhere in world.
The next 2 things were my favorites of the trip. We had about 15 minutes to speak with the President of Outback Steakhouse, Jeff Smith. He started off as a managing partner of a couple Outback Restaurants, worked his way up to Regional Manager and upward all the way to President. Jeff was so down to Earth it was great to just listen to him and his opinions. My favorite quotes from Jeff were “Hire the right people and get out of their way” and “Be better tomorrow than you were today.”
My other favorite was the tasting of the new and upcoming limited time menu. Wow, this was some good stuff that is full of flavor and will be available for you to try in a couple of weeks. This is a must try, the flavor was amazing and I swear it got better with every bite. You will be hearing more about this new menu from us soon!
We also learned how every food item is prepared fresh at Outback, it was crazy to see all the work that goes into just making a salad, the making the dressings, grating the cheese, mixing the greens, a lot of time and effort goes into that salad that you scarf down prepping for your delicious steak!
Next it was time to go, all good things come to an end, but at least I have a couple of Outbacks near me that I will be visiting very soon! Everyone at Outback was great to talk with, very informative and you were able to tell they love working for this organization. The phrase one of them said which sums it up perfectly is “serious food, by people who don’t take themselves too seriously.” Get to your local Outback Steakhouse and tell me what your favorite menu item is.