Sizzler Is Cooking Up A Nostalgia-Based Comeback

steak, lobster tail, and baked potato
steak, lobster tail, and baked potato - MeSamong/Shutterstock

If you're a fan of budget-friendly steakhouse Sizzler saddened by its seeming wane on the national dining scene, then take heart. The California-based chain has suffered its share of setbacks, especially during the pandemic when indoor dining was verboten in most of the country, but it's not ready to give up the ghost just yet. Sizzler is leaning into its past as a beloved dining option where families could get upmarket options not offered at fast food restaurants at a price far below what high-end restaurants usually charge.

On slate is a refresh of the menu and the interior décor, but it won't be anything monumental. Sizzler remains aware of what has made them popular and what has made them stand out across the company's 65 years in business. Steaks will still remain the prime offering, but customers may see them updated a bit for modern tastes. The generous salad bar — a popular buffet-style feature that Sizzler led the way in introducing — will also stick around. Inside, Sizzler plans to spruce up the restaurants with fresh designs and fixtures, though the classic feel of the establishments will remain.

On the advertising front, Sizzler is bringing in Jodie Sweetin — best known as Stephanie Tanner on both "Full House" and "Fuller House" — who starred in commercials for the restaurant at the beginning of her career. In an era where nostalgia reigns supreme, the casting is pitch-perfect for a chain staking a comeback.

Read more: 20 Best Steakhouses In America Ranked

Can't Keep A Good Chain Down

interior sizzler steakhouse
interior sizzler steakhouse - Bai-Bua Photographer/Shutterstock

Sizzler, today, doesn't conjure up the image of an innovator. But Del's Sizzler Family Steakhouse, as it was first known, paved the way for what we now call fast-casual restaurants, introducing elements that were unheard of but now de rigeur. The idea of placing your order and paying for it at the counter before settling into your seat, though common in fast food, was unfathomable at a restaurant serving Sizzler's fare. Today, countless chains and one-off restaurants employ this model. And there's that salad bar, which was ahead of the curve and appealed to women in particular.

As happens, Sizzler's innovations were co-opted by competitors. Salad bars exploded in the 1970s and 80s, counter service became more generally accepted, and Sizzler faced budget steakhouse challengers across the country. The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1996 and shuttered 130 restaurants. Despite this, Sizzler continued to attempt to revamp the brand, but to no avail. By the time the COVID pandemic hit, Sizzler was on the ropes and sought the refuge of bankruptcy again in 2020.

Sizzler is now hoping to win back customers it has lost over the years. Expect the restaurants, many of which were built in the 1980s, to be renovated over the next five to six years. Menu changes will be enacted sooner, as Sizzler keeps its eyes refreshing the brand.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.