Casual steak and salad-bar chain Sizzler is on the cusp of a comeback and it’s due in part to Gary and Sally Myers, who throughout their nearly 30-year history as Sizzler franchisees have led more than they’ve followed. Fiercely loyal to the brand, the Myers have also recognized its flaws—in particular the fact it had become mundane. On their own dime and often under the franchisor’s radar, they began reinventing the Sizzler look.
Six years ago, they remodeled a unit in Banning, California, after which sales grew by 20 to 30 percent. Just over a year ago, they went bigger with a dramatically different prototype that has, according to Gary, completely changed how customers view Sizzler. It also contributed to year-over-year sales increases of 200 percent to 300 percent, he says.
“When we remodeled Banning, we did mostly monochromatic colors,” he says. “We did it under the radar because every time we would go to corporate and say we’d like to try something it was always, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ But at the same time, they had franchisees opening with the old prototype and it wasn’t working. Finally, we said nobody’s making changes so we’re just going to do it.”
The Myers went on to develop what Gary calls a “full bright” prototype design. “We had some research that showed that 98 percent of Sizzler guests frequent casinos,” he says. “So we said, ok, they like high-energy places with nice restaurants, they like the entertainment, the sizzle. We committed to creating a wow factor.”
That wow factor hits guests even before they step inside. Exteriors have been redesigned to boost curb appeal; giant murals conveying images of Americana grace the sides of the buildings; and positioned out front is a mesquite barbeque grill filling the air with the aroma of sizzling steak and behind which a chef interacts with guests.
Inside, the vestibule takes another hit at brand repositioning. Here too, guests are greeted by large, colorful Americana-themed murals and a flat screen TV on which a customized video conveys brand messages. Colorful dining room seating, photos showing blue sky and active, smiling people, warm wood tones and rock walls create a contemporary, comfortable feel. Seating incorporates step-up booths, a signature high-backed elliptical booth and slightly higher tables and chairs. The salad bar itself has been redesigned to allow for display preparation in its center. “Everything that we used to do fresh in the back is now brought out front,” Gary says. “We’ve always cut our steaks daily, but we now have them displayed in a meat case out front to show off that freshness.”
Gary & Sally Myers
BMW Management, Inc.
Franchise: 25 Sizzler units
2011 sales: $55 million
No. of associates: 1,500