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TAMPA, FL-Faced with lagging sales, Outback Steakhouse executives outlined strategies yesterday during their quarterly conference call that they hope will energize its namesake chain. “We’re committed to reversing the sales trends that we have in this brand,” says Bill Allen, the company’s CEO.

During its Q3, which ended Sept. 30, year-over-year same-store sales for the 904-restaurant chain dropped 1.4%. Total sales inched up to $600 million from $585 million. Outback has been particularly weak as of late in the Midwest and Northeast executives say.

To boost the chain’s performance, the company will launch a new advertising campaign next year and has hired a new branding expert to tool with the restaurants’ image. Other initiatives executives are considering are value-priced menus and extensive renovations of existing units. “We think the strategy is going to drive traffic,” Allen says.

But besides Outback, the company’s other concepts performed well during the quarter. Same-store sales rose 6.4% at the 189 Carrabba’s Italian Grills, 13.4% at the 34 Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bars, 7.2% at the 82-unit Bonefish Grill chain and 9.1% at its 19 Roy’s restaurants.

For the entire company, net income during the quarter rose to $30.1 million from $27.3 million. Revenues increased 11.8%, to $872.4 million.

Outback executives plan 130 to 140 new restaurants in 2006, as well as a 1.5% to 2% same-store sales increase from this year. The new units include up to 20 to 23 domestic and 18 to 25 international Outbacks, 25 to 28 Carrabba’s, 33 to 35 Bonefish, eight to 10 Flemings and one to two Roy’s. The company also plans 18 Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants (it now has 21), one to two Lee Roy Selmon’s units from the three it currently operates and one Paul Lee’s Chinese Kitchens, bringing its total to five.

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