Sizzler reaches back almost 40 years for a re-introduction to lapsed customers

The steak-and-salad-bar concept is running ads again, playing off the signature deals that made it a 1980s hit.
Sizzler ad campaign
Sizzler is running ads again, reminding fans of its 1980s heyday. | Photos courtesy of Sizzler.

Sizzler is aiming to re-ignite fans’ appreciation of the steak-and-salad-bar concept with a new advertising campaign that plays off a commercial first aired 36 years ago, before its then-unknown star became a popular TV actress.

The new spot opens with a dated clip of a young girl trying to keep up with the continuous replenishment of fried shrimp on her plate, a function of the chain’s mid-1980s offer of unlimited servings of the seafood. The camera pulls back to reveal that the grainy old video is playing on the smart phone of Jodie Sweetin, a star of “Fuller House,” the current-day reboot of the popular 1980s sitcom “Full House.

Sweetin had also starred in that popular TV program, as a pre-teen abounding in cuteness and sass. Sweetin explains that she got her start in Sizzler commercials, including the one she’d been showing on her phone. The pullback reveals that she’s standing in a restaurant.

“I started here at Sizzler, and I’m here to tell you, it’s still as good as ever,” she says.

After cracking a few left-handed boasts about her acting abilities, Sweetin goes on to say, “Sizzler is many things, but most importantly, still open…it’s as much in demand as ever, and waiting for you to revisit this summer.”

Other executions show Sweetin as a youngster, trying to eat one more shrimp, juxtaposed with images of the adult actress munching one today.

"I loved coming back to Sizzler to do a commercial 36 years after my first one,” Sweetin said in a statement provided to Restaurant Business. “It’s great to see they’re still open and still serving my favorite meal, Steak and Unlimited Shrimp.”

The new commercial’s message is clear: If Sizzler was an old favorite of yours, head back to relive those satisfying occasions. It’s still around, and still serving up unlimited portions of shrimp, along with cooked-to-order steaks and fresh salad fixings.

The campaign will also inform unfamiliar customers of what the brand offers at its more than 80 current locations, according to the chain.

The spot also seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that many one-time fans might think the brand disappeared during the pandemic, when it sought bankruptcy protection from creditors. The filing convinced the U.S. Small Business Administration to hold off on processing Sizzler’s request for a second Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Sizzler eventually sued the agency to get that second loan, which amounted to $2 million.

Now the chain is striving to recover its verve—currently not by reinventing itself, but by reminding lapsed customers that they could still enjoy what made them patrons in the first place.

Sizzler did indeed reign in the 1980s as one of the industry’s hotter concepts, a result of the value it offered. Steaks were budget-priced, and the low price for unlimited trips to its salad bar made that feature a popular lunch option.

It was also a pioneer of what’s become the customary model for fast-casual concepts. Customers placed their orders at a cashier station after moving down a modified cafeteria line. When their entrees were cooked, their number or names were called. Customers picked up their food and brought it back to their table, with servers roaming the dining area to replenish soft drinks.

The brand intends to re-stoke interest through a variety of ways, including publicity campaigns and limited-time menu offers, according to its new public relations agency.

The new ad campaign is consistent with the nostalgia bent of many chain's latest marketing efforts. Quiznos, for instance, recently resurrected its Spongmonkey spokes-critters, and McDonald's turned a spotlight on one of its characters from the past, the Grimace. A number of casual-dining chains have resurrected their buy-one/take-one-home and 3-for-$10 deals, updated to reflect current cost considerations. 

Have a look at the new ad campaign:

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