Bold tastes and experiential menus are trending in 2023 as adventurous guests look for exciting entrée options and unique flavors—especially if those flavors are spicy or internationally influenced. Outback Steakhouse, an American chain of Australian-themed casual dining restaurants owned by Bloomin’ Brands Inc., is a case study of what on-trend menus should look like today as its new menu transports diners to Australia—no passport required.
Dubbed the Great Barrier Eats Menu, the limited-time menu runs from April 26 - June 20 and is inspired by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—one of the seven natural wonders of the world. “Outback Steakhouse has the unique opportunity to authentically tie our food and beverage to Australia while having fun with it,” says Becky Boyd, director of Menu Innovation & Strategy at Bloomin' Brands.
Boyd says Outback balances limited-time menus like Great Barrier Eats with fan-favorite offerings that are available year-round to give guests variety. “We vary our cadence of seasonal menus throughout the year. It is a fine balance of not changing too often and not keeping a menu too long,” she says. “Our guests love our signature items like the Victoria's Barrel-Cut Filet Mignon and Alice Springs Chicken, but they also crave our new innovations like the Loaded Bloomin' Onion and look forward to what's coming next.”
The Great Barrier Eats limited-time menu pairs land and sea items in new surf and turf combinations like the Sirloin and Lobster Mac & Cheese and the slow-roasted Prime Rib & Shrimp Combo.
Guests will also find bold new seasoning combinations like the Tasmanian Shrimp & Lobster Pasta, which adds a spicy kick of Fresno Chili Jam to alfredo sauce, and the Loaded Bloomin' Onion, now topped with Aussie Fries coated in Bloomin' Onion batter and seasonings.
“An on-premise trend that has my attention is the guests' exploration of flavors,” says Boyd. “Guests are more eager than ever to try new flavor combinations like sweet and spicy. This leads to so many ways to stack flavors for adventurous guests.”
For an international flair, the dessert menu includes a Tim Tam Brownie Cake, which is made with Australia's most popular cookie.
And for those looking for a true interactive experience that allows them to play with their food, Outback Steakhouse offers the Aussie JAWSsie shark cocktail, featuring New Amsterdam® Raspberry Vodka, Blue Curacao, a trio of citrus juices, and a dose of grenadine that guests pour into the drink directly from a shark’s mouth.
What Outback hopes to provide guests with this new menu is a variety of unique experiences to choose from. “Experiences bring value to the entire occasion. How ‘experience’ is defined can vary, which allows for so much innovation,” says Boyd. “‘Experience’ can be through menu offerings, theatrics, the story behind the menu items and more. Ultimately, the experience is what brings guests together and leaves them with great memories. Those memories keep guests coming back for more.”
Boyd has some advice for other restaurants looking to introduce experiential menus that cater to customers’ demands for something different. “Don't be afraid to push the boundaries on menus, but stay true to your establishment's roots,” she says. “Guests know when a bar or restaurant is not authentic and that can result in the opposite of a great experience.”
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