|Headquarters||Mission Viejo, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Del and Helen Johnson (founders)|
|Products||Steak, seafood, salads|
|Owner(s)||Sizzler USA (United States)
Pacific Equity Partners (Outside USA)
The chain was founded in 1958 as Del's Sizzler Family Steak House by Del and Helen Johnson in Culver City, California. The chain is composed of more than 270 locations throughout the U.S. Most of Sizzler's U.S. locations are in the West.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sizzler promoted mainly steak and combination steak dinners with an optional salad bar. The restaurant wanted to give the customer the feel of a full-service restaurant, but at a price just slightly more than that of a fast food chain. To keep costs down, many of the restaurants had their own in-house meat cutters where they would cut their own steaks and grind their own hamburgers. Heading into the mid 1980s, competition began to appear from other casual-dining restaurants. After promotions such as all-you-can-eat fried shrimp, the chain decided to expand its popular salad bar into a full buffet promoted as the "Buffet Court." Patrons began to use the buffet as their meal instead of an add-on to an entree. In response, Sizzler began to lower the quality of food in other areas of the menu. Customers took notice and Sizzler's reputation suffered. It was a classic example of an arms race between Sizzler and their customers, with strategies and countermeasures to gain the advantage, but in the end both sides were losers. Sizzler filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996 ("primarily to void leases"), closed 140 of 215 stores and changed their logo. They reemerged from chapter 11 in 1997. During the late 1990s, new management upgraded the quality of food but also increased prices. Sizzler's revenue flat-lined, and 21 locations were closed in 2001. Sizzler began an image makeover around 2002. A new restaurant concept was created featuring a lighter and more open dining room. The changes were accompanied with a new menu. In an effort to return to their roots, steaks, seafood, and the salad bar are now being reemphasized while the all-you-can-eat buffet is being phased out.
Sizzler was sold to Pacific Equity Partners, an Australian-based investment firm, in 2005. In January 2008, Sizzler announced it was planning to take action against the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) of Urbandale, Iowa, over the use of the name The Sizzler (Hot Lotto).
In June 2011, it was announced that Sizzler USA, a USA management group led by the Sizzler CEO, would buy the restaurant chain from Pacific Equity Partners. The headquarters initially remained in Culver City, California where the chain was founded, but moved to Mission Viejo, California in 2012.
Sizzler has launched its "ZZ" food truck as a way to expand sales and market test new dishes.
Sizzler also has restaurants throughout the world including Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Puerto Rico and Thailand. These locations outside the United States are operated by Pacific Equity Partners.
In 2000, over 60 people became ill and a young girl died in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that originated at a Sizzler restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Health officials said that the likely source of contamination was meat supplied by the Excel Corporation meat packer. They believe that cross contamination to other food items occurred when Sizzler employees handled the meat near areas where salad bar items were prepared. This was similar to an outbreak in Washington and Oregon in 1993. In the 1993 case, as in 2000, the tainted meat apparently came from Excel, and contaminated salad bar items.
In 2006, all 28 Sizzler restaurants across Australia suspended salad bar service after rat poison was found in two of their Brisbane restaurants. Sizzler Australia referred to the incidents as sabotage. The culprit turned out to be a woman described as being mentally unstable.
In June 2010, two Sizzler locations in Maricopa County, Arizona were raided by the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio under suspicion of having hired illegal immigrants. Nine arrests were made, and the restaurant chain experienced negative publicity after allegedly hiring immigrants they knew were in the country illegally.
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- Luna, Nancy (April 10, 2012). "Sizzler moves headquarters to Orange County". The Orange County Register. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
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- Beef grinder close to salad prep area, official says[dead link]
- "Cross contamination caused outbreak". About-ecoli.com. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
- Atfield, Cameron; Finnila, Richard; Viellaris, Renee (2006-03-01). "Rat poison scare leaves foul taste". The Courier-Mail (1 - First with the news ed.). p. 1. ISSN 1322-5235.
- Stevens, Craig (2006-02-28). "Media Statement" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2011-07-06.
- "Sizzler Woman Too Sick for Court". Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Associated Press. 2006-03-02. ISSN 0312-6315. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
- AP (13 June 2010). "Arizona immigration crackdown: Sizzler restaurants raided, 9 arrested". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
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