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Outback has been on a solid run in recent quarters.

Bloomin’ Brands Announces CEO Succession Plan

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Liz Smith is taking on an executive chairman role.
By Danny Klein March 2019 Chain Restaurants

Bloomin’ Brands announced an executive bombshell ahead of its March 11 investor day. The company will implement its chief executive officer and chief financial officer succession plan, effective April 1, it said Friday morning. David Deno, currently serving as EVP and chief financial and administrative officer, was appointed CEO and director of the company. Christopher Meyer, group vice president of financial planning and analysis, investor relations, will serve as EVP and CFO.

Current chairman and CEO Liz Smith, who has been with the company since 2009, will shift to the role of executive chairman of Bloomin’s board.

Jim Craigie, lead independent director of the board, said Smith joined Bloomin’ when the “casual dining segment was facing unprecedented headwinds, and the brands needed a refresh.”

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“Under her excellent leadership, the portfolio has transformed with strong brands and new and sustainable platforms for growth,” he said in a statement. “Her customer-centric approach has been instrumental in pioneering direct delivery from a full-service chain and creating the first multi-branded restaurant loyalty program. David Deno has been instrumental to the company’s success and is the ideal person to lead the company going forward.”

Deno joined Bloomin’, which operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, in 2012. He previously served as the president of Best Buy’s Asia division and CFO for Best Buy International. His career includes stops at PepsiCo/YUM! Brands and eight years at Burger King.

Meyer has been with Bloomin’ since 2004 and held roles such as group vice president and accounting, treasurer, and investor relations officer as well VP of finance at Bonefish.

“The last 10 years as CEO of this great company have been the most rewarding honor of my professional career,” said Smith, who led Avon Products, Inc., as president before joining the company.  She also worked in several roles at Kraft Foods, Inc., including group vice president and president of the U.S. beverages and grocery sectors, overseeing a total of $6 billion in sales. “I am so proud of our partners and team members, and their dedication to serving our customers and communities. Our brands portfolio is in a strong position to accelerate growth and I have every confidence that under Dave’s leadership we will realize continued success. In addition, Chris’ depth of experience at Bloomin’ Brands, coupled with his knowledge of the brand leadership teams, will ensure a seamless transition. We are fortunate to have such strong talent as I transition from a day-to-day role into the executive chair position.”

Bloomin’ has been on a solid run lately, especially in regards to its flagship brand. All four chains finished fiscal 2018 with positive same-store sales, giving Bloomin’ a blended lift of 2.5 percent in the U.S. It opened 30 new restaurants, including 24 in international markets. But the iconic steakhouse stole the headlines with a 4 percent run that represented the best annual comp sales result in six years.

Outback’s same-store sales gained 2.9 percent in Q4 on top of an already impressive 4.7 percent boost in the prior-year period, marking eight consecutive quarters of positive comp sales.

Bloomin’, over the past year or so, has steadily removed discounting from its brands as it looks to drive healthier day-to-day traffic through higher ROI marketing activities, such as digital, and to improve profitability.

Last quarter, Bonefish took a 10 percent reduction in discounting and finished with comp sales down 1.1 percent. Carrabba’s comps rose 80 basis points to positive 0.8 percent, and Fleming’s took a 0.4 percent drop, driven by a planned 20 percent reduction in discounting.