Are there any sizzlers left in the United States?

Sizzler was once a staple of the American steakhouse scene, with its signature buffets and salad bars. However, in recent years, the number of locations has declined significantly. So what happened to this once popular restaurant chain? And are there any Sizzler restaurants still remaining in the U.S.?

The History of Sizzler

Sizzler was founded in 1958 by Del and Helen Johnson in Culver City, California. The original restaurant was called “Del’s Sizzler Family Steak House” and seated only 24 people. It quickly became known for its high-quality steaks at affordable prices.

By the 1960s, Sizzler started franchising and expanding throughout the West Coast. The chain became especially popular for its signature salad bar, which allowed customers to customize their meals with a variety of fresh ingredients. Sizzler advertised itself as “America’s Favorite Steakhouse” and emphasized the high-quality USDA-inspected Choice steaks it served.

Sizzler’s Heyday

During the 1970s and 1980s, Sizzler experienced rapid growth across America. The company merged with Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1976 but later became independent again in the 1980s. By 1991, Sizzler reached its peak with over 300 locations. During this time, it solidified its brand as a family-friendly casual dining steakhouse.

Sizzler restaurants emphasized an all-American, barbecue-style atmosphere. Stores featured wood-paneled walls and red and white checkered tablecloths. The signature salad bars offered over 60 items to appeal to all tastes and diets. Sizzler also advertised its popular steak options like T-Bone, Ribeye, and Sirloin. For kids, Sizzler had its famous Kid’s Meal with a classic patty melt and fries.

Sizzler’s Decline

While Sizzler dominated the family-dining market in the 1970s and 1980s, competition heated up in the 1990s and 2000s. Casual dining chains like Outback Steakhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Texas Roadhouse chipped away at Sizzler’s market share. These newer competitors offered updated dining experiences while Sizzler did not evolve. Between 2000 to 2010, Sizzler closed about 50% of its locations.

Critics pointed to Sizzler’s dated decor and lack of innovation as reasons for its decline. While competitors updated their menus and revamped restaurant designs, Sizzler generally stuck to its original1960s blueprint. The signature salad bars began feeling stale compared to trendier build-your-own concepts. Health consciousness also led to lower demand for Sizzler’s focus on fried foods and heavy, high-calorie fare. Families started choosing updated chains perceived as offering greater variety and healthier options.

Sizzler also faced challenges as the restaurant industry shifted. Rising costs and labor shortages made the family-dining model more difficult to sustain. Customers gained more low-price alternatives like fast food and quick-service restaurants. As consumer tastes evolved, Sizzler failed to adapt and provide a compelling reason for people to choose its restaurants.

Sizzler Today

After its period of rapid decline, Sizzler has experienced some stability in recent years. However, the chain is a fraction of the size it once was.

According to Sizzler’s website, there are still 91 locations remaining in the United States as of October 2023. However, this is down from over 300 restaurants in its early 1990s heyday. The highest concentration of Sizzlers is on the West Coast, specifically in California, Oregon, and Arizona. However, there are also scattered locations across states like Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Internationally, Sizzler continues to have a stronger presence. There are over 100 locations throughout Australia, Asia, and the Pacific. Australia is now home to the most Sizzler restaurants, with their signature salad bars and grilled steaks appealing to Australian tastes. Sizzler also maintains popularity in Japan. The international locations showcase the ability of the brand to still attract a loyal following in areas less saturated with competitors.

Sizzler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the late 1990s but emerged from restructuring in the early 2000s. After surviving its brush with bankruptcy, Sizzler has focused on stabilization over aggressive expansion. The company seems content operating its remaining 130-140 restaurants. Time will tell whether Sizzler pursues a significant resurgence or continues gradual decline.

Why Some Sizzler Locations Have Survived

The Sizzler restaurants managing to survive all face their own unique challenges. They largely rely on loyal customer bases instead of attracting new diners. However, looking at common traits of the remaining locations can provide insight into why certain Sizzlers have endured.

Some enduring factors for the remaining Sizzler locations include:

  • Strong community ties – Sizzlers embedded in local communities for decades rely on established regular customers.
  • Nostalgia appeal – The vintage Sizzler ambiance offers a nostalgic meal experience drawing in longtime fans.
  • Senior-focused – The Sizzler Early Bird Specials attracts consistent business from senior citizens.
  • Tourist destinations – Some tourist area Sizzlers near attractions or highways maintain steady traffic.
  • Limited competition – Remote or rural Sizzlers without a lot of direct competition stay viable.
  • Lower costs – In low-rent locations, Sizzler’s dated model remains feasible.

The Sizzlers still running are generally in areas without newer competitors to threaten their established customer base. Their aging decor is less of a deterrent for loyalists or tourists focused on convenience and familiarity. However, most industry experts warn that Sizzler must still evolve to have any growth potential moving forward.


Sizzler rose to prominence by offering high-quality steaks and innovative salad bars at prices families could afford. However, the chain did not evolve along with public tastes and growing competition. From over 300 restaurants in 1991, only around 90 Sizzler locations remain in 2023. The outdated family-dining model struggles to attract today’s consumers seeking healthier, modern options. Remaining Sizzlers rely heavily on nostalgia, convenient locations, and brand loyalty. Significant reinvention would likely be required to see Sizzler return to nationwide growth and relevance. However, the Salinas Sizzler location, which opened in 1964, is still operational in 2023. With its trademark salad bar, steaks, and retro ambiance still intact, this location endures as a last vestige of Sizzler’s 20th century heyday for Californians craving a trip down memory lane.

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