A Brief History of Sizzler Restaurant

There are plenty of steak and shrimp lovers out there, but it’s not an indulgence they can always afford at most restaurants. For those on a budget, Sizzler steakhouses have long offered a cost-effective alternative, making them a favorite for families across America for over fifty years.

In 1958, Del and Helen Johnson opened their first Del’s Sizzler Family Steakhouse in Culver City, California. They employed a number of innovative ideas, such as having customers line up to order their food before being seated, which helped to keep the costs down. By doing so, they provided an affordable night out on the town at a respectable restaurant.

By the 70s, there were hundreds of Sizzler restaurants dotting the landscape across America, each offering a variety of steak and seafood entries, as well as a salad bar. Then in the 80s, they introduced a very popular concept, the “all you can eat” shrimp dinner.

Gluttons came out of the woodwork to consume as many of the Creustacians as possible (even if they consisted of tiny shrimp, enlarged in appearance by a lot of breading.) This led the company to significantly expand its salad bar and turn it into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sadly, once the company went the buffet route, less emphasis was placed on the entrees, since the majority of their patrons came for the salad bar and shrimp. As the quality declined, the company image suffered as a result. Sizzler filed bankruptcy in 1996, closing approximately 75% of their locations. They were down, but not out.

Returning to their roots, the restaurant chain has moved away from the buffet model and refocused its efforts on providing a reasonably-priced steak dinner (as well as pasta or chicken if you prefer) that a family on a budget can afford. New locations continue to sprout up, with the company boasting 270 locations in the US alone.

And, for the shrimp lovers among us, you’ll be happy to know that (as of this writing, at least), one aspect of the 80s is still alive at Sizzler – you can still get an endless pile of the deep-fried delicacies to go with your steak, just like you did back in the day.

And if you want to travel back in time to those good old days of eating at Sizzler, check out this promotional video from 1991.

If you’ve got a junk food question, junk food memory, or just want to share an observation of your own, feel free to drop me a line at junkfoodfiles@gmail.com. And you can always find me on Twitter posting about both old and new junk food, as well as other random geeky stuff. Stop by there and say hello as well.

Mickey

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About Mickey Yarber 169 Articles
Sometimes referred to as The Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via articles and videos, and occasionally make un-needed appearances on various podcasts. I can also catch quarters off my elbow. Email to book me for your next corporate event.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve never had the pleasure, I’m sorry to say, but I think they might have inspired some places I have eaten at that seem to fit a similar mold as I was growing up: Western Steer, Western Sizzlin’, and Quincy’s.

    I even worked at the latter for a few years before moving to Canada! Man, do I ever miss those yeast rolls…

    That said, the endless shrimp — shy of the buffet — is something I’m not well acquainted with at these other places. I wish I was, though!

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