Steak ‘n Shake on shaky ground

Photo: TennesseePhotographer (iStock)

Since the mid-1930s, Steak ‘n Shake has made its name on those two titular items, low prices, quick service, and in many places, your ability to enjoy all of those things in the middle of the night. But while the chain’s signature steakburgers are still highly capable of passing muster, recent years have seen Steak ‘n Shake battling to keep afloat in a packed burger market.

Earlier this year, Steak ‘n Shake ownership suggested that it could save money by withholding cherries from milkshakes, after the company’s reported losses were higher in the first quarter of 2019 than in all of 2018. The company’s recent second-quarter investors call brought more bad news; as International Business Times reports, Steak ‘n Shake has closed 106 company-owned restaurants since the beginning of this year, or about a quarter of its total holdings. That leaves just 307 total company locations nationwide. (It has an additional 203 franchised restaurants under its umbrella, as of this article’s publication.)

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The claim from owners Biglari Holdings is that the closures are temporary, planned as part of a “franchise partnership program,” described as “a move by Steak ‘n Shake to convert all its stores to the new model over the next three years.” But if franchisees aren’t keen on investing in those locations, under a chain that “has also seen its same-store sales fall for the last 12 out of 13 quarters,” it appears that the steakburger mainstay and Roger Ebert’s favorite restaurant could be in dire straits.

If, like us, your response to this news is a voracious craving for some Steak ‘n Shake, you may want to go scratch that itch while you can. There’s no telling how much longer you’ll be able to.

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