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Outback profits Wednesday to help hurrican victims

Published October 3, 2005

When terrorists attacked several American landmarks on Sept. 11, 2001, no national restaurant company reacted with more heart than Outback Steakhouse Inc.

Volunteers from the Tampa company and its suppliers spent days serving cheeseburgers and other free food to rescue workers at ground zero in New York. Outback donated 100 percent of the revenues it earned companywide on Oct. 11, or $7-million, to the American Red Cross as part of a National Restaurant Association fundraiser.

A similar restaurant association benefit will take place Wednesday for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But Outback is donating only 100 percent of profits to charity this time, a much smaller figure than in 2001.

One difference this time around is that some Outback locations took a direct hit. Fifty-four were closed an average of four days because of physical damage, evacuation, or the loss of power or water. Outback, whose brands include Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill, could be on the hook for as much as $5-million in lost revenues and reconstruction costs.

"Our immediate response was to provide for many of our displaced Outbackers and the first responders in many ways that we do not publicize," CEO Bill Allen said in an e-mail. "We were first on-site to provide food (in connection with our vendors) and serving staff immediately to feed the rescue teams. At the same time, we provided food, housing and financial support through our OSI Trust Fund to all employees of all (restaurant chains) affected. ... All of these efforts have a price tag associated with them."

Outback's loss is the American Red Cross' loss, too. Its contribution was by far the largest of the $18-million raised by Dine for America in 2001. Still, the company will be at least as generous as some of its competitors, more so than others.

Brinker International Inc., the Dallas parent of such chains as Chili's Grill & Bar and Romano's Macaroni Grill, will be donating 100 percent of the profits it earns Wednesday. So will Applebee's International Inc. and Orlando's Darden Restaurants Inc., whose portfolio includes Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

Yum! Brands Inc., a Louisville, Ky., company that owns the KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver chains, is taking a more piecemeal approach.

According to, some of Yum's restaurants are donating 10 percent of profits, some are donating $100 apiece, and others none at all. Certain Taco Bell locations are giving a quarter for every crunchy taco they sell.

[Last modified October 3, 2005, 01:15:16]

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