Outback Steakhouse said it will introduce steak flights and dessert flights to its menu for a limited time, starting May 22.

The casual-dining chain aims to encourage customers to explore flavors they wouldn’t normally order, while still giving them the steak they’re familiar with, said Desmond Edwards, vice president of marketing services at Bloomin’ Brands Inc., Outback’s Tampa, Fla.-based parent company.

The flights also intend to entice Outback’s most loyal consumers to order something new, while attracting new customers, he said.

“People can just taste around our menu in a very fun, engaging way,” Edwards said. “We know something is going to [be a] hit.”

The two- or three-steak flights are made of pieces of filet or sirloin steak coated with a choice of four sauces: Creamy Diablo, Brandy Peppercorn, Bearnaise and Wild Mushroom. Each three-ounce steak is placed on a crispy potato cake for serving, Edwards said. The flights start at $10.99 for sirloin and $19.99 for filet.

Outback announced the launch of the steak flights at 8 p.m. Thursday night via Google Hangout, which let users engage with Outback’s chefs and marketers via video chat. The hangout lasted nearly 23 minutes.

“It’s like watching television and interacting with the television in a unique way,” Edwards said. “You can ask questions and get Outback’s perspective right away.”

The chain will also add cake pops and beer flights to the limited-time menu, according to the discussion during the Google Hangout. The pops come in three flavors: Cheesecake Melba, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Carrot Cake, and are served in sets of two or three.

Two cake pops cost $4, Bloomin’ Brands spokeswoman Cathie Koch wrote in an email.

Edwards declined to say how long Outback had been developing the flights, but did say that the product was created after keeping close tabs on consumer and restaurant trends across the country.

Customers “love the variety, they love the choice and it needs to be affordable,” he said. “We think we have a great opportunity here to really change the dynamic of the conversation with our consumers.”

Across the restaurant industry, small plates and flights have been trending in causal dining for some time. Dessert flights in particular are alluring to customers because they allow guests to try lots of flavors instead of ordering one big dessert.

T.G.I. Friday’s launched a small plates menu in April, and Bahama Breeze, owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., launched a small plates and skinny cocktails menu in October 2011.

Koch declined to say if the steak flight concept would be extended to other proteins in the future. She also noted that the company does not release proposed end dates for limited-time offers.

Outback Steakhouse had 975 restaurants as of March 31, 2013.

Contact Erin Dostal at erin.dostal@penton.com.
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