PALMA CEIA, Fla. — "First opened up there wasn't a lot of traffic, and that we didn't advertise it first. So what we used to do is everyone worked every day and so they'd let some people off and they'd make us sit by the windows and they pull our cars in the parking lot and make it look like it was full," explained Richard Menendez, bartender at Outback Steakhouse.
Menendez has been behind the bar at the Original Outback Steakhouse on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa for the past 35 years.
The first week or so of the opening of Outback was tough. The Australian theme wasn't a hit right away.
"Actually, at one point, I was like I'm gonna give it one more week and see what happens. And then it just blew up and went crazy," explained Menendez.
Menendez remembers that there weren't many other casual dining restaurants in South Tampa at the time.
"It sort of made it a good destination for us. You know, like, like, the closest thing was maybe like, maybe Chili's over there by the stadium. That was like the closest thing," he said.
Menendez said he's seen a lot of change from Bloomin' Brands over the past 35 years but the restaurant has been a good fit for him all these years. While some things change, some of the customers have become old friends.
"So I have customers that have been coming here every day, every day, 35 years. So we have a few of those. And then I have like the customers I've had for like 25 years and 15 years. I got these two old guys that come in here and I call them — remember 'The Muppet Show,' the two old men from the Muppet Show? That craggly old man and so that's great," he said.
You can read more about Outback and Bloomin' Brands by clicking here.