The Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain is to focus its future expansion on the burgeoning leisure park market.
It signalled its new direction yesterday with the opening of its sixth outlet at a leisure park in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, its first such site.
Stevenage Outback Steakhouse is a 240-seat outlet developed at a cost of £1.1m, which has created 70 jobs. The menu majors on steak, chicken, lamb, fish, seafood and pasta.
The restaurant general manager/proprietor is Patrick Cunningham who has signed up to Outback's renewable five-year partnership scheme, in which he invests money in the business in return for a salary and a share of the profits.
Originally, the UK franchise for the Australian-themed brand was set up in 2000 with the aim of growing to 100 outlets.
However, progress has been slow and following managing director Phil Broad's defection to Starbucks as managing director in March. Operations director Mike Palmer has taken over the reins and repositioned the group.
Palmer said: "Until we have got 20 restaurants, we won't be recognised as a brand as such. Once we have reached the 20-mark, greater brand awareness round country will make it easier to find and acquire new sites."
As part of this shift the company is switching from its traditional focus on residential and high-street locations to leisure parks, which Broad says will better satisfy its demand for standalone units of around 6,000sq ft, preferably with an attached car park.
The move puts it in direct competition with The Restaurant Group's Frankie & Benny's and La Tasca's new Sam & Maxie's concept.
By Angela Frewin