Carrabba’s Sandwich Bistro may sound like a fast-casual spinoff of Carrabba’s Italian Grill, but it’s actually a new catering arm for the full-service restaurant brand.
The Bistro menu seems targeted to office catering and meetings with its selection of six chef-curated sandwiches accompanied by sides and salads. But Carrabba’s is also marketing the new service to social catering customers for parties, tailgating and similar events.
“With sandwiches being highly popular on third-party platforms, we thought this was a great opportunity to launch bold, flavorful sandwiches that customers would fall in love with—and they have,” said Bronze Major, head of marketing at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. “Carrabba’s Sandwich Bistro is an extension of our existing catering business.”
Carrabba’s Italian Grill, operated by Tampa-based parent company, Bloomin’ Brands, has a robust catering program with an extensive menu of dinner-style appetizers, entrees, non-alcoholic beverages and desserts, including trays of lasagna, meatballs, chicken marsala, shrimp scampi and cannoli. The 218-unit casual-dining chain saw its catering business take off post-pandemic, growing 46% in 2021 alone.
In a story last year by my colleague Joe Guszkowski, Bloomin’ CEO Dave Deno said “that [catering] is a piece of our portfolio that is now an opportunity … they got to grow it and we got to make it work.”
Carrabba’s Sandwich Bistro is growing that catering opportunity in a new direction.
“When developing the concept, it was important to leverage the brand recognition of Carrabba’s, so customers understood they were receiving a high-quality product from a reputable restaurant company,” said Major. And “it was important to create a separate identity so that when customers search for sandwiches during the lunch daypart, Carrabba’s Sandwich Bistro appears as a top option.”
Although some new SKUs were brought in to create the sandwich menu, Carrabba’s was able to cross-utilize ingredients from its inventory. “Some Carrabba’s Sandwich Bistro menu items are derived from Carrabba’s menu items, like our handmade meatballs which are in our meatball sandwich,” Major added.
The lineup includes the Italian, filled with prosciutto, mortadella, salami and toppings; Bruschette Chicken with wood-grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes, burrata and pesto; Caprese, a vegetarian option layered with tomatoes, burrata and pesto; Steak Marsala made with sliced sirloin and mozzarella topped with marsala sauce and mushrooms; Chicken Parmesan; and the aforementioned Meatball. All are served on toasted focaccia bread and boast elevated ingredients like roasted garlic aioli and house-made pomodoro sauce.
The selections are available to order as Bistro Sandwich Bundles serving five or more; Bistro Boxed Lunches; and Bistro Sandwich Trays. Prices range from $13 for a boxed lunch to $57.50 for a sandwich tray and $67.50 for a bundle. Sides for groups of five or more (salads and homemade chips) go for $10 to $16 and a cookie platter is $10. Beverages options include gallons of lemonade and iced tea for $6.99-$9.99, depending on variety.
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