Biz Beat

Steakhouse chain sizzles with remodel

The new Sizzler restaurant in Turlock isn't your father's, or even grandfather's, Sizzler. Not even close. The outlet is the latest version of Sizzler, a chain founded in Southern California in 1958. It combines the best of what Sizzler always has offered with an updated look and atmosphere.

The Sizzler at 3101 Hotel Drive is north of Monte Vista Avenue and just east of Highway 99. The newly constructed restaurant will be the prototype for many other outlets. Much of the redesigned steakhouse's features will be incorporated into remodeled Sizzlers, including the one at 3416 Dale Road, across the street from Vintage Faire Mall, in Modesto. Closed since June, the revamped Sizzler will reopen next week. The Turlock and Modesto restaurants are two of 25 Sizzlers in California and Nevada owned by franchisees Gary and Sally Meyers.

The Meyerses wanted to make their new Turlock outlet and remodeled Modesto Sizzler reflect the trend of today's popular themed restaurants -- dining as entertainment. They incorporated murals and photos of people taking part in different recreational activities -- bicycling, horseback riding, snowboarding -- that everyone can identify with. There are several flat-screen televisions airing sporting events and other programming. Customers are greeted by video from Sizzler commercials showing sizzling steaks and fresh vegetables. Even the color scheme was changed to create a lighter, brighter atmosphere.

Rather than separating customers from workers behind counters, the staff greets people at pods where they can interact more easily with them while taking orders. Diners then are escorted to their tables. Gone are the plastic trays and cafeteria feel. The steaks are cut fresh each day and kept in a display case near the large, exhibition kitchen, so people watch as the food is prepared. Pretty entertaining.

Despite all the changes, Sizzler's main attraction remains the food. Diners can select from an array of steaks (including rib-eye and porterhouse) and seafood platters (including shrimp and salmon) as well as ribs, burgers and chicken specialties. Combination plates, such as steak and endless shrimp, remain Sizzler staples.

The restaurant's signature all-you-can-eat salad bar is also an option, with more than 50 fresh items to choose from: tomatoes, mixed cheeses, onions, mushrooms, croutons, bacon bits, watermelon and such. It's also stocked with chicken wings, tacos, gourmet soups, desserts and much more.

So while the new and remodeled Sizzlers might not look like your father's and grandfather's Sizzlers, these restaurants offer all the things diners liked about the old venues and plenty of new things to keep them coming back for more and more and more. For more information, call 667-6047 for the Turlock Sizzler, or call 578-5099 for the Modesto Sizzler.

Elsewhere on the Business Beat:

What is it: Asian Buffet at 2400 Coffee Road, Suite O, Mo-desto. It's in the Coffee Plaza Shopping Center. Phone, 572-1888.

What it does: Asian Buffet offers an all-you-can-eat buffet that rotates more than 150 items daily. Menu items include appetizers (egg rolls, chicken wings), soups (wonton, hot and sour), fried rice (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp), chop suey, and chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetable meals. Some house specials include the triple delight (shrimp, beef and chicken with vegetables) and seafood delight (lobster meat, jumbo shrimp, scallops with vegetables in seafood sauce).

Who runs it: Chunjin Liu is the owner. Liu has owned two other businesses and has been in the restaurant industry for 10 years. Asian Buffet has been open for two weeks. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

What makes it special: Asian Buffet also has a room for private parties and sells party trays.

Have an item for Business Beat? Send it to David W. Hill, Business Editor, The Modesto Bee,

P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352; or

Compiled by Jillian Hanks,

Bee Newsroom Assistant