Remember these iconic Aussie restaurants?
All-you-can-eat buffets, kids birthday parties, often tacky decor and more than a few gimmicks.
If you ate out as a family in the 1980s and ’90s, you’ll undoubtedly have visited some restaurants that ticked some – or all – of these boxes.
Restaurants that have long since disappeared and yet are remembered by their former patrons as if they visited them only yesterday.
If you’re like us, you’ll wonder what happened to them.
Here are some of the most forgotten Australian restaurant chains that were once big news.
Who doesn’t remember Sizzler?
Hugely popular in the 1990s, at its height the steakhouse and buffet chain had dozens of locations across Australia and cultivated a loyal family fanbase after opening its first restaurant at Annerley in Brisbane in 1985.
They even hosted the occasional wedding.
But times changed and the brand slowly slid into obscurity, closing the majority of its outlets amid declining patronage. The original Annerley store was among the most recent to shut its doors, holding on until 2017.
Sizzler does still operate in nine locations across three states, with five restaurants in Queensland, on in NSW and two in Western Australia.
Smorgy’s never reached a national audience, but it did leave a lasting imprint in Melbourne’s dining scene.
And how could it not, with facades that included giant volcanoes and fake Polynesian sculptures, and an internal fit-out that included jungle scenes, boats and other questionable design choices.
The volcanoes also ‘erupted’ throughout the evening with an explosion of fire from the top. But all the gimmicks in the world couldn’t save the chain, as it closed for good in the early 2000s.
Longstanding Italian restaurant Pizza Hut still exists today, though not in the format that most would remember it by.
In the ’80s and ’90s the pizza chain was famous for its ‘all you can eat’ pizza and dessert buffet, and it was the go-to destination for thousands of kids’ birthday parties for that very reason.
While the company still has hundreds of stores nationally, its iconic brick and barn-roofed venues have since been repurposed for a myriad of other uses. In fact, two diehard fans of the old stores turned the pursuit and photographing of the old stores into a lifelong hobby and eventually a book.
There was a home delivery pizza war in the 1980s and ’90s, with Pizza Hut in one corner and Pizza Haven in the other.
But while Pizza Hut is still hanging in there, its opponent was eventually killed off.
Started by four brothers in 1984, the company expanded to franchises nationwide before it was eventually bought by the Eagle Boys pizza chain in 2008, which was subsequently bought out in 2016 by Pizza Hut.
Swings and roundabouts!
LONE STAR STEAKHOUSE & SALOON
If you’ve ever thrown opened peanut shells on the floor of a restaurant, it was probably at Lone Star.
The American steakhouse franchise opened its first location at Parramatta in 1993 and seven years later it had 21 restaurants across Australia.
That was as good as it got, though, and 10 stores were reportedly shut down in 2000 after a review of its operations, before its American parent company sold the 11 remaining restaurants in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to local operators in 2003.
A number of stores were later purchased by Outback Jacks Bar and Grill, while all Queensland restaurants and the original Parramatta store shut up shop in 2011.
Yet another US/Canadian brand that chanced its arm in Australia but failed to go the distance was The Keg, which had a flashy stint as a family dining destination in the 1990s.
But while the chain remains successful Canada and the US, where it has more than 150 restaurants, it couldn’t make it work in Australia and disappeared some years ago.
Ollie’s was a household name in Victoria, NSW and other states in the 1980s, with advertisements like the one above, featuring Shirley Strachan from Skyhooks, doing the rounds.
But three little letters quickly ended the chicken chain’s reign: KFC.
The global chicken giant swallowed the Aussie stores in the early ’90s, and the rest is history.
Fish ‘n’ chippery Barnacle Bill’s was one of Australia’s first and most well-known fish and chip franchises.
Once a mainstay in multiple states, it has since disappeared from everywhere bar South Australia, where it still has 14 locations.