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BOSTON-Outback Steakhouse Inc. is in for some changes. The nation’s largest steak and casual dining chain plans to augment its menu with non-beef items, invigorate its restaurants with a new look and hire a new marketing firm to develop a $1 million ad campaign that will stray from its humorous ads and give the brand an “edgy” new image.

That’s the word from the company’s newly appointed CEO, Bill Allen, who announced the changes Wednesday at the CBIC Fifth Annual Consumer Growth Conference in Boston.

Of course all those changes are designed to accomplish earnings growth and expansion, which Allen sees as headed up over the next few years. Earnings growth should hover in the mid-teens during the next five to seven years, he predicted, while square footage is expected to increase 10% to 12%, meaning more of the chains branded restaurants will be popping up throughout the country. The company added 142 stores to its roster last year, and the same number is planned for both 2005 and 2006. Those are optimistic numbers given that the company reported comparable store sales at its flagship chain declined 0.4% in June.

Outback’s other branded restaurants, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Lee Roy Selmon’s, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bonefish Grill and Paul Lee’s Chinese Kitchen, fared better during the period. Same-store sales at Carrabba’s were up 9% during the period and surged to 14.2% at Fleming’s while rising 6.3% at Roy’s and increasing 3.7% at Bonefish’s. Comparable-store sales were not available for Cheeseburger in Paradise of Paul Lee’s Chinese Kitchen. The company operates more than 1,200 restaurants under those names throughout the 50 states and in 21 foreign countries.

But Allen isn’t yet done with his plans for Outback or its other branded holdings. A stock repurchase plan also is on the horizon and some other branded restaurants may not be too far behind.

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