Outback Steakhouse Is Not Nearly As Australian As You Might Think

Outback Steakhouse, with its more than 650 locations across the U.S., is about as Australian as Taco Bell is authentically Mexican. For those unfamiliar with cuisine that hails from down under, it would be easy to trust that a chain restaurant with a menu section labeled "Aussie-tizers" serves Australian food, but many Australians have expressed their discontent with the idea that Outback's food is Australian. For what it's worth, the restaurant chain is careful with the descriptions on its website, noting it is an "Australian-inspired steakhouse," but it also claims the restaurants' atmosphere is like "you're right there in the Australian Outback." 

Advertisement

Outback Steakhouse was started in 1988 in Tampa, Florida. Despite the restaurant chain's founders, Chris Sullivan, Robert Basham, Tim Gannon, and Trudy Cooper, being inspired by the vibe of Australia, none of the four are of Australian origin, and none traveled to Australia while developing the restaurant concept, as Sullivan detailed in an article he wrote for Kauffman Entrepreneurs in 2001. 

Sullivan explained that Americans in the '80s loved their own ideas about Australia, and Americans were the intended audience for Outback Steakhouse. Based on this, the founders felt making the cuisine too authentically Australian could put customers off. "From the beginning, we were very clear that while Australia was our theme, America was our biggest customer," wrote Sullivan. "Consequently, our menu creations are inspired by Australia, reminiscent of Australia, and bear Aussie names, but are not authentic recipes."

Advertisement

What Australians think of Outback Steakhouse's menu

Outback Steakhouse's most iconic offering is also its least authentic: The Bloomin' Onion is an appetizer made from a whole onion which is sliced to resemble the petals on a flower before being battered and fried.

Advertisement

Jason Chatfield, a New Yorker cartoonist and Australia native, absolutely rips into the inauthenticity of the Bloomin' Onion and Outback Steakhouse as a whole in a post on his blog. Chatfield adamantly states most Australians don't understand what a Bloomin' Onion even is. "We don't even really say 'Bloomin” in Australia," writes Chatfield, adding, "It's as if someone asked a broken A.I. to watch the episode of 'The Simpsons' where they go to Australia and generate a menu for a steakhouse." He also calls out the fact that Outback Steakhouse serves Foster's Lager. While the beer does hail from Australia, Chatfield states that Australians don't actually drink it. 

Others online have echoed Chatfield's sentiments for years. In a Reddit thread asking Australians what they think of the steakhouse chain, many replied criticizing the food and resolutely rejecting any ties the restaurants might appear to have to Australia. "It does not serve Australian food, it serves American cuisine," wrote Reddit user u/PointOfFingers. "There is no deep fried onion in Australia. ... I would never eat there."

Advertisement

Much like with Taco Bell, it's obvious to those who know authentic cuisine that Outback Steakhouse's goal is not authenticity — it was started to capitalize on Hollywood's idea of Australia. This it achieved without a doubt, but actual Australians would not claim its menu as their own.  

Recommended

Advertisement