This blog started as a means for us to record our travels for ourselves to look back upon, keep any interested friends and family updated as we went along and also serve a tool for me to learn the art of writing in preparation for writing the book. It is achieving those three (although how well or successfully is up for debate) but every few days I get surprised by the feedback and interest it gets from people reading it around the world. I have no aims or means for the marketing or promotion of it and certainly cannot count the readership in millions or even thousands but slowly word of it seems to be spreading. I don’t think I am in the territory of being invited onto Strictly yet but I have started to ponder which dancer I would like to be paired with. Also its fun imaging the sheer embarrassment this would bring to Barry & Neil when I fall over on live TV and get the lowest score ever.
Anyhow we woke to another lovely morning and tried not to smirk when we learned that cars at home had been covered with ice this morning. Today was to be the hottest October 28th in Florida ever. We realised that we have finally chilled into this trip when we decided we couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere for an early start. Instead we left the Villa quite late to go back to the University Town Centre to return the chain Karen had bought (too short) for her Poppy pendant and also to pick her some another slice of cheesecake (Key Lime). We were back in the Villa for lunch and spent the afternoon chilling in and out off the pool again.
Around 4pm we left the Villa after smartening ourselves up as we were off to meet in Tampa with Michael, Executive VP for Customer Service from the Blooming Brands Group which include Outback. He had invited us after exchanging feedback and emails from our trip in August down the West Coast. The journey should have taken a hour but we knew that the traffic could be bad so allowed almost 2 hours, which it almost did.
Michael was waiting for us as we walked in. It was great to meet him along with Davey who was the partner who owned the restaurant we were meeting in. We were given a VIP tour of the new style flagship Outback restaurant. It was very light and airy with a contemporary feel, well designed and adaptable. We were also shown behind the scenes and could not believe how many staff were ‘out back’ and how efficient the whole process was.
The staff were all unsurprisingly extremely attentive when we sat down and ordered some food. We shared a Blooming Onion with Michael before he had to leave as he had just flown back from a visit to the West Coast.
It was very good of him to take the time and trouble to take the time out of his day meet us (and pay for our meal). With his encouragement I had ordered the Steak & Lobster which was extremely good. He told us that Outback account for 14% of the Lobster sales in the US and when they have their ‘Lobster offers’ it drives the wholesale market price up across the country.
Karen had her usual and washed it down with her favourite Blackberry Martini.
It was a shame that Michael had to leave so early, although who can blame him from wanting to escape from 2 random Brits who sadly have become somewhat experts on his chain of restaurants. We just love the steaks, service and the atmosphere. It is not an obsession as we like to frequent other places as well. I think that the fact we cannot visit one at home makes it a real treat.
There were many other questions and feedback I would have liked to ask and give but didn’t get round to, like;
- Has Outback ever considered selling the seasoning in Supermarkets like other brands?
- They should make more of a virtue of the Baked Potato’s as they are far far superior to any others we have ever eaten anywhere
- The Caesar salad dressing is the best I have ever had as well. What do they put in it and have they considered selling that separately?
- Do they hit the right demographic with the sponsorship of NASCAR? Who exactly is Kevin Horlick and what is his relationship back to Outback? Would they consider sponsoring Norwich City as we could do with some extra funds?
- Is there a process for responding to negative feedback?
- Is the IT infrastructure in house or outsourced (no reason - just curious)?
- How many ‘bread’s’ do they get through in a day?
As I said, it’s not an obsession.
Both Michael and Davey said they have been reading the blog which worried Karen afterwards as she thinks I should be careful what I write. I always try to be honest and fair with my thoughts and definitely try not to be offensive. I hardly think though despite todays opening paragraph I qualify as an influencer and that anyone really cares too much.
The drive back took just over 40 minutes with the roads far less busy. Karen sat and watched an episode of The Voice whilst I caught up with events at home. It’s all happening there and hopefully we are heading for an election in the UK to get rid of some of the current muppets in Parliament to replace them with some new hopefully more reasonable muppets.
It will mean I can rattle out my old argument that I think it should be compulsory for everyone to vote in UK even if it is for an option of ‘none of the above’ which would probably win this time - unless of course Fozzie Bear actually stood for the Real Muppet party who would actually win with a landslide). Lets face it, they would do a better job than any of the current parties.
And so after another enjoyable but surreal day it was time for bed.