Don’t let the accent fool you: With its generously seasoned steaks, deep-fried shrimp platters, and sauce-drenched desserts, Outback Steakhouse’s cuisine is way more American than Australian. And most people seem to be okay with that. In 30 years time, Outback has gone from an underwhelming opening to become one of the most popular restaurant chains in America—a place where the Fosters is always flowing, and where you’ll likely find more than one boomerang stuck to the wall.
1. IT IS NOT, IN FACT, A TASTE OF THE OUTBACK.
You may be shocked to learn that a Bloomin' Onion is not a traditional dish of the Australian Outback. Nor are Aussie Fries or Alice Springs Chicken Quesadillas. But considering that real Outback cuisine includes bush tomatoes and wattleseed biscuits, you’re probably okay with that.
2. YOU CAN THANK CROCODILE DUNDEE.
Back in 1986, Paul Hogan introduced Americans to the image of Australians as rugged, carefree, and always carrying a big knife. Crocodile Dundee was the second most popular film in America that year, and created a cultural wave that Outback Steakhouse’s founders hoped to ride. In March 1988, they opened the first location in Tampa, Florida.
3. NONE OF THE FOUNDERS HAD EVER BEEN TO AUSTRALIA.
All three were veterans of the restaurant industry and wanted to invest in a novel concept. After developing the idea for Outback Steakhouse, a research trip was proposed and then quickly shot down. According to co-founder Chris Sullivan, they didn’t want to be influenced by the cuisine or otherwise put off their mission to deliver “American food and Australian fun.”
4. IT DID NOT HAVE A PROMISING START.
Opening day was as desolate as a sun-baked highway stretching to the horizon. Employees at the Tampa, Florida location had to park in the lot to make it look busy and call their friends and family and invite them to come in. To drum up business, the founders invested in ads and promotions, and eventually word got around.
5. NEW ORLEANS WAS A BIG INFLUENCE.
Co-founder Tim Gannon developed the Bloomin' Onion while working as a chef in New Orleans, using different spice combinations to season his deep-fried onion concoction. The 18 different seasonings used to marinate Outback’s steaks are also inspired by The Big Easy.
6. THERE'S ONLY ONE BLOOMIN' ONION.
Well, actually there are many—they just go by different names. There’s LongHorn Steakhouse’s Texas Rose, Chili’s Awesome Blossom (which was discontinued a few years back), and the thousands upon thousands of concoctions people create in their own kitchens using an at-home onion fryer. But only Outback's onions are crafted by "dedicated bloomologists."
7. THERE ACTUALLY ARE LOCATIONS IN AUSTRALIA.
Seven, to be exact, which means Australians must not find Outback Steakhouse completely offensive. There are subtle changes, like a menu that lists “prawns” instead of “shrimp,” and a grammatically incorrect tagline that exhorts diners to “Live Adventurous.”
8. THEY JUST STARTED SERVING LUNCH.
Lunch has traditionally been viewed as a money-loser in the restaurant industry, but that’s starting to change as fast-casual companies like Chipotle rake in the dough. So Outback decided to give it a go with $6.99 combo meals and more 100% not-Australian dishes like Aussie Tacos.
9. THEY ONCE SOLD STEAK FLIGHTS.
For a fleeting few weeks back in 2013, Outback offered diners three 3-oz. steaks with a choice of four sauces. It sounds pretty fancy, until you learn that one of the sauces was called Creamy Diablo.
10. FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS' JEMAINE CLEMENT STARRED IN A SERIES OF ADS.
Never mind that Clement’s from New Zealand, not Australia—the ads are still pretty funny.