Sizzler Restaurant – What Happened?
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There are lots of shrimp and steak lovers out there, but it’s not an indulgence everyone can afford at many restaurants. Sizzler steak houses have offered a cost-effective alternative for families wanting a good meal for more than fifty years.

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Sizzler is a U.S.-based restaurant chain that is headquartered in Mission Viejo, California, that was first opened in 1958. Today, it’s one of the most recognizable names on the west coast for salad, seafood, and steaks.

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History of Sizzler

Sizzler Family Steak House was founded in 1958 by Helen and Del Johnson in Culver City, CA. At its peak popularity, the chain operated over 270 locations across America, with most restaurants in western states like California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, and so on.

From the late 1970s to the early ‘80s, Sizzler promoted steak dinners and combination meals with an optional salad bar. The restaurant’s mission was to provide customers with the feel of a full-service restaurant but feature prices just a little higher than fast food.

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To cut down on costs, many Sizzlers employed in-house butchers who would grind beef and cut steaks. Their business model worked well until the mid-1980s, when competition began to appear. More specifically, Bonanza Steakhouse and Ponderosa Steakhouse opened and set out to take some of the market shares.

Video: Retro TV commercial for Sizzler restaurants 1978

Sizzler ran many promotions, including an all-you-can-eat fried shrimp deal, before expanding the salad bar into a full-blown buffet known as the “Buffet Court.” Soon, patrons used the buffet as their meal rather than an entree add-on. The restaurant responded by lowering the quality of some menu areas and introducing free grilled cheese bread rolls before dinner. The only problem was that the rolls were meant to line the stomach and curb appetites, and customers quickly noticed the trick, thus, tarnishing their reputation.

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Chapter 11 Bankruptcy & A Sale

In 1996, Sizzler filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy due to the “costly leases on unprofitable restaurants.” This process forced them to close more than 130 locations before reemerging from bankruptcy the following year.

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During the late ‘90s, Sizzler was placed under new management that increased the prices and upgraded the quality of food. As you might imagine, the changes were not well-received, and by 2001, the chain shut down an additional 21 locations.

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By 2002, Sizzler was in the midst of an image makeover. This led to the creation of a new restaurant concept set around a more open and bright dining room. These upgrades were accompanied by a revamped menu, which made an effort to return Sizzler where it began – offering seafood, steaks, and a salad bar. The all-you-can-eat buffet was phased out at most locations but remained at others.

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In 2005, Sizzler was purchased by Pacific Equity Partners, an investment firm based in Australia. Sizzler USA announced in June 2011 that a U.S. management group would buy the remaining locations in America while Pacific Equity Partners would retain the international ones. Once the deal was finalized, Sizzler moved its headquarters from Culver City to Mission Viejo, where it remains today.

Sizzler Today

Sizzler USA filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy again in 2020, this time citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as they had to shut down all dining rooms during lockdowns. They have also had difficulty paying rent, as most of their remaining locations are in areas of California that were heavily affected by COVID-19 and restrictions.

Though you can’t go to Sizzler and buy a $0.99 steak today, you can still enjoy a tasty meal at one of the 88 remaining locations. So, if you find yourself in a western state that’s still home to Sizzler, grab some friends or family and enjoy a delicious Sizzler steak and salad!

About the Founders

Helen and Del Johnson are the founders of the popular restaurant chain Sizzler. They opened their first restaurant in California in 1958 and have since grown the chain to over 200 locations in the United States and around the world.

Helen and Del met in the late 1950s when they were both working in a factory. They quickly fell in love and were married in 1960. After their marriage, they decided to open their own restaurant and chose the name Sizzler because they wanted to create a place where people could enjoy a delicious meal without breaking the bank.

The Johnsons opened their first Sizzler restaurant in California in 1958 and it quickly became a success. They opened more locations in the following years and eventually expanded to other states and countries.

Today, Sizzler is a popular restaurant chain that is known for its delicious food and affordable prices. The Johnsons are still involved in the business and are proud of what they have accomplished.

Helen and Del Johnson are an inspiration to many and are a great example of a successful business partnership. They are a reminder that hard work and dedication can lead to success and that it is possible to achieve your dreams.

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Sizzler – Still Around

Today, there are still some Sizzler restaurants in operation. You can find them by clicking on the map below

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While Sizzler may never reach the height of its popularity in the 80s and 90s, it still holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans who grew up dining at Sizzler with their families.
Despite the ups and downs of the brand, Sizzler remains a pop culture icon and a reminder of a simpler time. So, if you’re feeling nostalgic, head over to a Sizzler near you and enjoy a slice of history with your meal. Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of that iconic neon sign that’s become synonymous with the Sizzler name.

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10 responses to “Sizzler Restaurant – What Happened?”

  1. Bill Polkinhorn Avatar
    Bill Polkinhorn

    I Miss it in South Carolina I worked at the one in Anderson SC in High School loved the food they closed the One in Clemson it stayed full all the time wish it come back

  2. Tom Smith Avatar
    Tom Smith

    We always ate at the Sizzler on w 16th St. during Indy 500 Time Trials. You never knew who would be there. It was one of our trip high lights every year.

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  5. Glenn Waltrip Avatar
    Glenn Waltrip

    Last time I was there (Santa Clara) they disappointed me. First time I believe in over several decades of going there. Not sure I can return, you know, once bitten.

  6. Steve Avatar

    Loved that honey mustard sauce for Malibu chicken

  7. Sherrie Avatar

    I love and miss my sizzler!! We used to go there and by the all you can eat salad bar, those were good days!!

  8. Terry Avatar

    I started patronizing Sizzler in the 1970’s and did so for decades. The last couple of times I went, the quality of food has gone downhill and the prices have gone way up. I doubt if I will continue to eat there.

  9. […] and Ponderosa Steakhouse both had a limited menu focusing on meat and potatoes with salad bar options. Because the restaurant was “cafeteria style”, labor costs were kept […]

  10. […] operated in his father’s grocery store. In September 1961, the first stand-alone Red Barn restaurant opened on West Market Street in […]

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