|Headquarters||Mission Viejo, California, U.S.|
|Del and Helen Johnson (founders)|
|Products||Steak, seafood, salads|
|Owner||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 such as Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse. 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. Sizzler filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996 ("primarily to void leases"), closed 140 of 215 stores and changed its logo. The company reemerged from chapter 11 in 1997. During the late 1990s, new management upgraded the quality of food but also increased prices. Twenty one 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 its 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 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. Some of these locations outside the United States are operated by Collins Foods.
The Australian Sizzlers were reasonably popular from the late 20th century to the 2000s. In the 2013 financial year Collins Foods reported stalling revenue for their Sizzler operations in Australia, blaming the downturn of the casual dining sector in the country. By 2015 Collins Foods wrote down the value of Sizzler by AU$37.5 million. In an investors meeting by Collins Foods, CEO Graham Maxwell states: “We no longer consider Sizzler to be a strategic growth prospect in Australia and therefore we will not be investing further capital”. Collins Foods began to close a limited number of Sizzler restaurants in Australia. Meanwhile, Collins Foods' Sizzler operations in Asia continued to thrive, with further expansion plans in China.
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. This ultimately lead to Sizzler closing the remaining few of its Midwest locations including those in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
In 2006, all 28 Sizzler restaurants across Australia suspended salad bar service after rat poison was found in two Brisbane Sizzler restaurants. Sizzler Australia referred to the incidents as sabotage. The culprit turned out to be a woman described as being mentally unstable.
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