Updated on April 29, 2016
Nine years ago, an idea was hatched at Outback headquarters to send meals to troops in combat, starting with Afghanistan in 2002.
Outback co-founder, Trudy Cooper, told me that it was a natural thing to do since their headquarters is so close to MacDill Air Force Base.
“We already serve meals to our military, how hard could it be to take them meals where they fight?” she asked.
And that’s just what they did. Outback actually drove their catering truck into the back of a C-17 and flew it to Afghanistan in what they called Operation Feeding Freedom. Since that day, OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC (which includes Outback Steakhouse, Carraba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine), has traveled every year to feed the troops abroad. And they do it without publicizing their efforts.
“We love our military,” Cooper said soon after her and her staff taking meals to wounded troops here on KAF.
In all, Outback and their partners brought 31 employees who all volunteered to travel to one of the most dangerous places in the War on Terror to serve meals to troops serving their country. It’s the most they’ve sent to date. To punctuate that fact, employees were present for two separate indirect fire attacks against the FOB today.
This year, Outback brought 40,000 meals to feed the troops, beginning in Manas, Kygyzstan then traveling to FOBs around Afghanistan. Usually, their efforts take place in October, but Cooper told me they pushed it up this year to thank troops on the 10th anniversary of the reason they are here to begin with.
Troops packed each and every dining facility to enjoy a taste of home. The menu included Bloomin’ Onions, Calamari, Boule Bread with Herbs and Olive Oil, Cavatappi Amatriciana, Chargrilled Steaks, Ravioli and REAL Cheesecake for dessert.
“It’s been SO long since I’ve had cheesecake this good,” one Canadian Soldier told me.
Soldiers could be seen slowly savoring the taste of thick, charcoal-grilled steaks, creamy slices of cheesecake, and pieces of Bloomin’ Onions.
“This is the real deal,” said PFC Morris from the 82nd Airborne Division. “Not like those thin, dry steaks they usually serve us every now and then.”
OSI doesn’t publicize the Operation Feeding Freedom program because they don’t do it for publicity. They do it for their love of troops. And they definitely showed it today by taking the time to not only serve the troops, but stop and talk with them.
Bonefish Grill employee, Jessie Gour, stops to talk with Army Majors “Jack” Berry, Josh Bradley, and Anthony Barbina after bringing their table some Bloomin’ Onions.
Here are some pictures from just one of those dining facilities.