14 Facts You Should Know About Outback Steakhouse

The Australian Outback brings to mind a sprawling red desert, intense heat, and hopping kangaroos — not tender steaks, shrimp on the barbie, and boozy drinks with plastic koalas attached to the straw. But who are we to question Outback Steakhouse's undeniably Australian spirit? Everything from the Melbourne porterhouse to the classic bloomin' onion is fun, flavorful, and fearless. This doesn't mean that the restaurant's dedication to Australia is totally authentic, however. A closer look at its menu, kitchens, and even the employees will reveal a more complicated legacy than you may expect a steakhouse to have.

We scoured Outback's website, Reddit forums, and news articles for little-known facts about the steakhouse. If you've ever been curious about how the famous bloomin' onion came to be, the mysterious ingredients in the "secret seasoning", and the restaurant's response to poor animal welfare allegations, we have all the details. These facts will either have you saying "G'day!" to your nearest Outback Steakhouse — or a "Hoo roo" goodbye.

1. Outback Steakhouse didn't originate in Australia

This may come as a shock, but Outback Steakhouse didn't originate in the actual Australian Outback. Crikey, indeed! When Chris Sullivan, Robert Basham, Tim Gannon, and Trudy Cooper founded Outback in the late '80s, the Floridians wanted to bring a unique Australian flair to casual American dining. The restaurant's slogan — "No Rules, Just Right" — has been a head-scratcher for years, but it seems to be a nod towards "the customer is always right" mentality: At Outback, you can order your food however you like, and with a fun atmosphere, to boot.

In fact, the restaurant's unique Australian theme is half the fun. If you've ever stepped foot inside an Outback, you'll undoubtedly remember the rugged-yet-polished dark wood furniture and the photographs of winding dirt roads. Some locations still have this classic theme, while others were updated in 2022 to reflect a more modern Aussie vibe. "Edgy art pieces adorn the restaurant, and a chandelier reminiscent of the Southern Cross constellation allows patrons to enjoy dinner under the stars," a press release on Outback's website reads in part. This new artwork is inspired by Australia's famous surf culture, bringing a more colorful and youthful energy to the steakhouse.

2. It was one of the first sit-down restaurants to offer takeout

Our Friday nights would look a lot different if we couldn't order late-night grub. We might have Outback Steakhouse to thank for the rise of takeout options from sit-down restaurants, as it became one of the first to offer curbside takeout back in 1997. By 2006, the International Herald Tribune (via The New York Times) reported that Outback had raked in over $270 million in a single year, due in part to its takeout option. 

Of course, takeout was never more popular — or necessary — than in 2020. When COVID-19 forced restaurants to prioritize convenience, eateries like Outback (which had already streamlined its curbside takeout process) were able to adapt much more quickly than others. We certainly can't imagine a world without takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery options these days. But Outback hasn't sat on its laurels, as the restaurant now offers door-to-door delivery. We're talking a tender, juicy, cooked-to-order filet, prime rib, or sirloin delivered right to your home. 

Sure, plenty of other restaurants offer food delivery. But it's not every day that an actual steakhouse drops a fresh steak on your porch, no cooking on your part required.

3. The menu's sodium levels are off the charts

Does it really come as a surprise that Outback Steakhouse is not a paragon of health? We love thick steaks, bloomin' onions, and Australian beer as much as the next person, but that doesn't mean we're going to eat them every day. Outback's nutritional guide speaks for itself: the sodium and calorie levels are off the charts with most of the menu options. According to the World Health Organization's guidelines, consistently consuming more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day could put you at risk of developing cardiovascular issues and other illnesses.

Nine of Outback's 14 appetizers soar over the WHO's minimum sodium levels. Among your best appetizer options for a lower sodium count would be the grilled shrimp on the barbie, Gold Coast coconut shrimp, and steakhouse mac & cheese bites. We weep at the thought of skipping out on the Aussie cheese fries, but the 7,490 milligrams of sodium admittedly give us pause. Add a thick sirloin and a bloomin' blonde ale to your plate, and you'll be as salty as the actual Gold Coast.

4. It's possible to eat nutritious options at Outback

It goes without saying that a steakhouse probably prioritizes flavor over nutrition. This doesn't mean that Outback Steakhouse is swimming in salt, fat, and carbs, however. Despite Outback's soaring sodium levels, the restaurant has tried to diversify its menu with healthier options. It even went so far as to offer Smart Dining Tips for guests, which Outback's website claims were compiled by a registered dietician. A great way to cut down on sodium is to have more control over the ingredients going into your meal. "Order 'plain' and ask for seasoning to be placed on the side when you get proteins and veggies, which are hand-seasoned by our kitchen," Outback recommends

Regardless of which protein you order, rest easy knowing that it doesn't have to be grilled in an excess of butter or oil if you don't want it to. Some of Outback's suggestions are classic dieting techniques — order a light dressing on the side, save half of the meal for tomorrow, etc. — but they're worth repeating, especially if you're craving Outback but not the high sodium or fat levels. Here's another helpful reminder: don't hesitate to ask your server for any meal alterations that could make your night out a little more nutritious.

5. Outback's steak is aged to 'optimal tenderness'

If Outback Steakhouse does anything right, it had better be steak. It's in the name! Thankfully, the restaurant proudly proclaims that it sees its relationship with steak as "a love story" of sorts — meaning the meat is raised from farm to table. The most important part of the process is, arguably, when the steak is aged to what Outback deems "optimal tenderness". The restaurant attributes its juicy, tender steaks to the aging process. "Its muscle fibers are gently broken down and that's how it gets the flavor you love," the site reads. In 1995, The Washington Post claimed that Outback most likely wet ages its beef. But since this evidence is nearly 30 years old, we can't know for sure if it's still true. It would make sense, though, as wet aging is a quicker process that ensures a fresh taste and tender texture.

Chef Efram Cutler of Bloomin' Brands explained to Tasting Table why Outback's steaks are so flavorful. "We have trained Steak Experts crafting and executing our steaks to the highest standards," he said. Steak that's been carefully aged (and cooked with love, apparently) simply must be delicious.

6. This steakhouse uses a secret spice blend

Of all the mysteries in the world, two keep us up at night the most. The first: Where is the lost city of Atlantis? And the second: What in the world does Outback Steakhouse put in its steak seasoning that makes it taste so gosh darn good? We're no closer to finding Atlantis, so we'll have to tackle the steak seasoning first. One of the restaurant's best-kept secrets, the seasoning's ingredients are noticeably absent from Outback's website, or any other site for that matter. Even former Outback workers could only speculate on Reddit. "All it says on the front [of the bag] is salt, pepper, garlic, SPICES, lol, palm oil. It's a pretty complex blend so I can't even begin to break it down," one ex-employee, who's since deleted their account, claimed in 2019.

We at Tasting Table already have a first-class steak seasoning recipe, but we still can't help but wonder about Outback's unique seasoning blend. The seasoning detectives of Reddit have speculated about the different spices and herbs that make up the blend, with everything from pink peppercorn to MSG to sumac included. The blend was concocted by Outback's founders, so the secret has been kept for over three decades.

7. Outback's bloomin' onion boasts a special kind of onion

The bloomin' onion is Outback Steakhouse's signature dish for a few reasons. It's a unique dining experience, the whole family can enjoy it, and it's flat-out daring — three things that perfectly encapsulate Australian culture. And, of course, it tastes like nothing else on the menu. Naturally, Outback claims to have dedicated years of research and expertise into crafting the perfect bloomin' onion recipe. It was created in 1988 by Tim Gannon, one of the restaurant's original founders. Since then, the recipe has evolved into the deep-fried flower-like 1-pound wonder it is today. This evolution can be traced back to the specialty farmers across the U.S. who bring the abnormally large onions to life.

The aforementioned former employee spilled the beans (and onions) about the cooking process, as well. "[Outback uses] a machine called a Gloria to cut blooms, but you can do it by hand," the Redditor revealed. This ex-worker also explained how a melon baller is used to scoop out the onion's core before the onion is soaked in cold water for 24 hours. The house seasoning used on the bloomin' onion is, unsurprisingly, a mystery — but they suggested that paprika may play a major role.

8. Some of the food is inspired by Australian culture

Outback Steakhouse may not have been founded in Australia, but the food still evokes the continent's adventurous spirit. One menu staple, the bloomin' onion, is deep-fried to a golden brown and sprinkled with spices. It resembles the rough terrain of the actual Outback. Even the Outbacker burger, which looks like a straightforward hamburger, is piled high with enough ingredients to make every bite an exciting flavor exploration. Then there are the steaks, which are all named in honor of an Australian city: there's the hefty Melbourne porterhouse and Victoria's filet mignon, to name a couple. 

Outback will occasionally celebrate Australian holidays and festivals by rolling out themed items, as well, like the Koala punch, which is inspired by Chinchilla's annual melon festival. If you're not familiar with Australian wildlife, then allow us to introduce you to Outback's kookaburra wings. Inspired by the real-life birds that are native to the continent, Outback's versions are, mercifully, only chicken wings. The Tim-Tam brownie cake also incorporates an important part of Australian culture: the delectable Tim-Tam, a chocolate-covered cookie. You won't find a typical Australian breakfast (or brekkie) at Outback, but lunch and dinner with a Down Under twist abound.

9. There's a gluten-free menu at Outback Steakhouse

If the shareable bloomin' onion or warm, inviting atmosphere didn't convince you that Outback Steakhouse wants everyone to enjoy its food, then a curated gluten-free menu should. Yes, even people with a gluten allergy or sensitivity can chow down on an Aussie entree. 

"Our Registered Dieticians and Culinary team review each ingredient carefully to ensure that it can be used to create flavorful gluten-free dishes," Outback's site claims. Not only are all of Outback's seasonings gluten-free — yes, even the mystery ones, it seems (we'll just have to take Outback's word for it) — but the restaurant's gluten-free menu is pretty extensive. There's only one dessert featured, but it's an Outback classic: the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, which combines a pecan brownie with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, and whipped cream. And, of course, most of the steaks are gluten free, so you can enjoy Outback's signature entrees alongside everyone else.

It's important to note that Outback's gluten-free options are not prepared in a gluten-free kitchen, so cross-contamination is always a possibility. But as a real Aussie would say, there's "no drama," as Outback educates its employees about gluten in order to prevent cross-contact from happening. For example, Outback emphasizes glove changing, using clean cooking equipment, and frequent handwashing when employees are trained.

10. Its parent company got a low grade for animal welfare

Bloomin' Brands, Outback Steakhouse's parent company, has seen its fair share of controversy. In 2020, it faced backlash from the animal rights community when The Humane Society of the United States gave Bloomin' Brands an "F" for animal welfare practices. What exactly did Bloomin' Brands allegedly do to earn such a pitiful grade? During its audit, the Humane Society looked for areas of improvement in terms of caged hens, overbred chickens, and pigs confined to gestation crates. Despite Bloomin' Brands' claim that it would transition to 100% cage-free eggs by 2025, the Humane Society apparently found no evidence that any progress had been made.

Receiving this low score definitely isn't a good look, so Bloomin' Brands has tried to address these concerns. The parent company created an animal welfare advisory council to help follow the Five Domains Model for animal welfare, which includes nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state. Bloomin' Brands has since shared an update on its 100% cage-free egg goal by extending the deadline to 2030. It's also established a goal for pork by stating that 90% of its purchases will have been raised in group housing instead of gestation crates by 2029. A better Humane Society grade just may be in Bloomin' Brands' future.

11. Bloomin' Brands landed on several best-of lists for diversity

Bloomin' Brands has its eyes on the future, if its Forbes' rankings are any indication. In 2023, Outback Steakhouse's parent company was ranked #318 out of 500 on a list of America's best employers for diversity. It may be relatively low on the list, but the fact that it made the list at all is encouraging. "We believe in the sanctity of the individual, the value of diversity and inclusion, and in treating people with kindness, respect, and understanding," Bloomin' Brands claims. It clearly put this mission statement to good use, as Forbes also ranked the company highly on its list of the world's top companies for women: At #140, Bloomin' Brands beat out other restaurant giants, like McDonald's. Bloomin' Brands has also partnered with Women's Interest Network, Big (which supports Black employees), and Belong (an LGBTQ+ organization).

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Outback's then-CEO David Deno temporarily gave up his salary and used the money to support furloughed employees and frontline restaurant workers. Time will tell whether Bloomin' Brands — and Outback, by extension — will retain its high standards for diversity and inclusion.

12. Outback's brown bread is pre-made

When we think Outback Steakhouse, bread isn't the first food that comes to mind. So why are the people of Reddit so preoccupied with the restaurant's bread? Whether recreating it or trying to pin down the recipe, Redditors seem more committed to Outback's bread than its steaks. More specifically, it's Outback's brown bread that has people talking. When served fresh, the brown bread is warm and satisfying. A firm crust gives way to a soft, buttery interior. Best of all, the brown bread has an unexpectedly sweet taste, with Reddit user AdSea4715 noting, "[It's] sweet molasses bread, best bread to have with butter, the perfect mix."

If you're craving Outback's brown bread, that previously mentioned former employee posted a useful tip on Reddit: "Just go to your local Outback and buy some off them. They'll sell it to you." Just don't expect the bread to be totally fresh. "Bread is premade," the ex-worker revealed. "Honestly, it's like 15 bucks for a case (case has 36 loaves I think)." However, for authentic Australian sweet bread, fairy bread is a whimsical treat for all ages.

13. The restaurant uses real butter to grill your steaks

Whether you order Victoria's barrel-cut filet mignon, the bone-in ribeye, or the New York strip, your knife should cut through the tender meats with ease — like butter, one could say. There was a rumor that Outback Steakhouse's steaks are cooked with beef tallow, a type of animal fat, but chef Efrem Cutler quickly set the record straight, telling Tasting Table that Outback cooks its steaks in butter. Fat is an essential element when cooking up steak, as it provides moisture and flavor. But since most cuts of meat already contain flecks of fat, the last thing you want to do is add more fat. Too much tallow can make for a chewy texture and one-note flavor. Butter, on the other hand, is a more versatile fat, one that makes the flavor more complex and the texture tender.

It pays to baste your steak in butter, something that same former Outback employee emphasized on Reddit. Noting that a half-ounce of butter is used on each steak — apart from 18-ounce cuts or porters, which get a full ounce — the Redditor wrote, "They literally call it 'the puddle of goodness' and I love them for that. It's real honest-to-goodness butter."

14. Outback Steakhouse used to have steak flights

In 2013, Outback Steakhouse provided a service that made every meat-lover sprint to their nearest Outback restaurant: steak flights. For the uninitiated, a flight is a method of serving food or drink — usually beer — for tasting purposes. A customer who orders a beer flight will receive a few pint glasses of different types of beer. Outback's twist on the classic taste-testing method included an order of a few 3-ounce steaks. Since steak is Outback's specialty, there were around 50 combos to choose from, and diners were guaranteed to get either a sirloin special or filet mignon, plus sides of green beans, potato cakes, and four sauces.

If this sounds too good to be true, some would argue that it was. Outback's steak flights seemed to disappear overnight — and with no official explanation given as to why, all we can do is speculate. It's possible that the 3-ounce steaks were simply too small to be enjoyable. But who knows? Much like the boomerang these discontinued steak flights were served on, it's possible that they'll come back someday.