Fitzgerald Succeeds MMB on Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Chain spends nearly $30 million in media annually

Fitzgerald & Co. is in the casual dining business after besting three undisclosed agencies to become the lead creative shop for Carrabba's Italian Grill, a chain operated by Bloomin Brands.

The McCann Worldgroup Atlanta affiliate is taking over from MMB, Boston for the restaurant, which spent $29 million in media last year, according to Kantar Media.

The shift follows Katie Knight's appointment as CMO of Carrabba's in October, after she served as vp of marketing for Bloomin Brands' Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. (The company's other brands include Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill.) Knight is no stranger to Carrabba's—in recent years she has been director of product marketing and director of local marketing at the restaurant chain, which was founded in Houston in 1986.

"We're looking forward to the team's strategic and creative expertise to help differentiate the brand in the marketplace, strengthen our relationship with our consumers and drive our business forward," said Knight in making the appointment.

That business imperative comes after Bloomin Brands said fourth-quarter, same-store sales for company-owned Carrabba's outlets were flat at 0.3 percent. By comparison, they rose 6.4 percent at Outback and 3.4 percent at Fleming's, while stalling at 0.7 percent at Bonefish Grill. The first work from Fitzgerald, which includes Coca-Cola among its clients, is expected in the first half of 2016.

In December, Bloomin Brands moved its $150 million in annual media spending to MediaVest from Carat after a review.