Thursday, November 2, 2017

Outback Steakhouse Strikes Out

It's been a while since I last ate at Outback Steakhouse, but primarily because my work environment changed so I wasn't frequently on that side of town, but I had reason to go to Henderson Nevada today so I dropped by the Outback on Stephanie for a good meal.  Actually, I stopped by to get a GREAT meal, but that's not what was served.  Well, their Diet Coke was above average (which is another story for another blog), and the loaf of bread was the same as always (which is good - it's not my favorite bread, but it's exactly what it's always been - good enough to enjoy), although even this wasn't hot, but had obviously been sitting out for a while.

But instead of Diet Coke or fresh bread I went to Outback for a medium rare ribeye steak, a Caesar's salad and their garlic mashed potatoes, the meal I always choose when I go there.  First came the salad.  Have you ever had a dry Caesar's salad?  I didn't think it was possible, but in this I was wrong.  There wasn't enough dressing to bring the lettuce to life.  Big disappointment, but it's just a "side" so, all other things being equal, I wouldn't object.  However, then came the steak. 

Right up front, I looked at it and was stunned. It was small.  Really small. Since I order the same steak almost every time, this wasn't just a guess.  It looked to be at least a quarter, maybe a third smaller than usual.  Which wouldn't have been so bad except it also seemed to have more than usual fat and gristle.  Finally (this is the trifecta of disappointing steaks), the steak seemed to have been over-tenderized, to the point where it was falling apart. I'd never realized how the texture of meat impacts it's appeal and enjoyment.

Finally, the garlic mashed. Not sure how you can screw this up, but it was as dry as the salad.

Ok, that covers the meal.  When I paid (by one of those damned machines on the table - for the prices I pay at Outback I'd like to deal with a real person, but maybe that's just me), I was asked to take a survey, which I did, and ended it by including a text message to the store management.  It couldn't have been a message that the manager wanted to get, but I'm truly surprised that the manager didn't immediately reach out to me, if only to apologize, if not to try and make it right.  But so far, not so much.

Maybe it's just the Outback at Stephanie, but when I consider the size and quality of the steak, I've got to believe that this is a corporate decision to downsize the meal instead of raising the price.

If you're jonesing for a steak, you might do better somewhere else than Outback Steakhouse. I know the next time I want a steak, I'll find another place to go.


  1. Sometimes it is better to ignore a customer complaint than to handle it badly. I got an email from the manager of the Outback in Henderson, Nevada today that responded to my complaints - primarily by telling me how wrong I'd actually been to think that Outback could itself be wrong.

    Here is the store manager's email, followed by my reply.

    From Jason Byrd, Managing Partner:

    Hello Mr. Barnett,
    I hope this email finds you well. I did leave a voicemail yesterday and apologize that I have not been able to speak with you as of yet. I understand you were disappointed with a few aspects of your meal and would like the opportunity to address these. I am glad you enjoyed your Diet Coke. We do serve a 12 ounce Ribeye as stated on the menu but do have larger cuts available, for example a 22 ounce Ribeye, this have been consistent on our menu for quite a few years now so it should not have been smaller than you remember in the past unless you were to order one of the other cuts in previous dining experiences. Unfortunately steaks do vary in tenderness and marbling depending on the cattle and if you are ever unhappy with the cut you receive or any aspects of your dining experience please let us know immediately so we may rectify the situation. You indicated that you “included a text message to the store management.” Unfortunately we do not receive those surveys or comments until the next morning which was when I was notified and reached out to you immediately leaving the before mentioned voicemail. Did you by chance mention any of your concerns to your server? I truly apologize that you were not happy with your dining experience or the lack of an immediate response and would like to extend an invitation to return for dinner on me. Please feel free to reply to this email with your mailing address so I may send you a gift card for dinner. I sincerely hope you allow me this opportunity to earn back your business and hope to hear from you soon.


    Jason Byrd
    Managing Partner
    Outback Steakhouse # 3213
    521 N. Stephanie St.
    Henderson, NV 89014

    Or so it seems to me.

    1. My reply:


      I saw that somebody from Outback called yesterday, but there was no message left that I could recover, so I’m glad you finally reached out. Not glad with the overly-defensive tone of your message, which assumes that your restaurant is right in all things, and that if I’m unhappy then the problem is with me, not Outback, but at least you reached out.

      However, I didn’t raise my concerns in order to get into a debate with you over the quality of my meal. Despite your claim to the contrary, the steak I got was noticeably smaller than any ribeye I’ve ever had at Outback, and despite your assertions to the contrary, I actually think I know the difference between a 12-ounce steak and a 22-ounce steak. Do you really think I’m so stupid that I can’t tell the difference between the size of the 12-ounce steaks I’ve ordered for years and the 12-ounce steak I got the other night? I don’t know whether I should be annoyed or insulted. Continuing on with the annoyed-or-insulted thread a moment, blaming the cow for the steak is absurd, but in a funny kind of way (at least it made me laugh). You have presumably skilled buyers who choose your meat. You have presumably trained cooks who prepare your steaks. That nobody noticed how ringed-with-fat my steak was (or how much smaller it was than it had ever before been) suggests that, in fact, smaller steaks of lesser quality are seen as a way of boosting profitability without raising prices. Either that, or you’ve got some real problems with quality control, which suggests you’ve got some stellar incompetents working in your kitchen.

      What’s printed on your menu may be consistent, but what was served on my plate was NOT consistent with anything I’ve gotten before. The steak was smaller than any ribeye I’ve ever gotten from your Outback, and it was also way too fat-ringed (which, despite your suggestion to the contrary, is different from being marbled). I am unused to small or overly-fatty steaks coming from Outback, but I think I’m perceptive enough to be able to tell the difference.

      I’m also not going to get into a debate with you over customer-disservice that comes from your Outback now using those automated table-top devices instead of a wait-staff that actually interacts with the customer. Pardon me for assuming that if I take the time to write a comment on an automated/electronic feedback device, someone will take the time to read it, then respond to it in a timely fashion. If you can’t organize timely responses to dissatisfied customers from your system, the problem is with the system. A customer service professional might say that it’s doing you more harm than good. Certainly, that’s the case in my situation.

      As for reaching out to a server to complain, since you have insisted on automating everything with those annoying table-top devices, I only saw my server twice – once when I ordered and once when he refilled my drink (before my meal arrived). Oh, wait – there was a third time, a swift drive-by when he told me to use the device instead of presenting me a check and asking me how my meal was. Pardon me for expecting human attentiveness from a restaurant that charges $25 for a small steak, but if I have to go hunting down the manager because my waiter has been automated, then I’m in the wrong place.

      Here’s my bottom line, which apparently wasn’t sufficiently clear. When I made that sarcastic point that only the Diet Coke was right, and that only the bread was (largely) what I expected (though it wasn’t warm-from-the-oven, but merely not stale), I was making the point that except for the soft drink, every-blessed-thing-about-the-meal was wrong in some way. The salad had so little dressing that it was dry. The steak was noticeably smaller than it’s been on previous occasions, and it was noticeably more fat-ringed (vs. marbled) than usual. Even the mashed potatoes were dry. When the best thing to be said about a $30+ meal-for-one is that the fountain drink was good, then something is very wrong at the restaurant.

      Or so it seems to me.