Steak 'n Shake

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Steak 'n Shake Operations, Inc.
Industry Food
Predecessor Shell's Chicken[1]
Founded Normal, Illinois (February 1934 (1934-02))
Founder Gus Belt[1]
Headquarters Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Key people
Phillip Cooley
Products Steakburgers, Milk Shakes
Services Restaurants
Number of employees
Parent Biglari Holdings

Steak 'n Shake Operations, Inc., or simply Steak 'n Shake, is a casual restaurant chain located primarily in the Midwestern and Southern United States with locations also in the Northeastern and Southwestern United States, and Europe. The company is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. There are 544 locations, of which 417 are company-operated and 127 are franchised.[2] Typical restaurant locations have sit-down, drive-thru and front-window service, resulting in a hybrid of fast-food to-go service and diner-style sit-down service. Many Steak 'n Shake restaurants are open 24 hours, 7 days per week. True to its name, the menu features primarily steakburgers and hand-dipped milkshakes, though other entrees, side items, and drinks are also available. There is, however, no actual steak on the menu.

The corporation's slogan "Famous for Steakburgers" refers to its most prominent food item, the "Steakburger", so called because it was originally made from a mixture that included T-bone, sirloin, and round steaks.

Steak 'n Shake restaurants are operated by Steak 'n Shake Operations, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Biglari Holdings, located in San Antonio, Texas. As of August 2014, the company operates more than 500 restaurants in 29 states, including about 100 franchised locations.[3] The company has announced plans to increase the number of locations both in the United States and elsewhere.


Gus Belt (born in Morrisonville, Illinois) founded Steak 'n Shake in Normal, Illinois in February 1934, after serving four years in the United States Marine Corps. He converted the combination gas station and chicken restaurant that he owned (Shell's Chicken) into a hamburger stand.[1] The original building at the intersection of Main Street and West Virginia Avenue was damaged by a fire in the early 1960s, but it was repaired and its dining room expanded. In the late 1990s, Steak 'n Shake sold this building to the Monical's Pizza company. Steak 'n Shake's slogan "In Sight It Must Be Right" originally referred to Belt's practice of wheeling a barrel of T-bone, sirloin, and round steaks into the public area of his restaurant, then grinding them into burgers in front of his customers.[1] This practice was intended to reassure customers of the wholesomeness of the product; at that time, ground beef was still viewed with some skepticism by the general public, based on the likelihood of its having deliberate impurities introduced into it. This practice of grinding the beef in public also helped assure his customers of the veracity of Belt's "Steakburger" claim because they could see for themselves that he was grinding steaks into the hamburger meat. Later, patrons were assured that Steakburgers were still made from these ingredients "at our own commissary" for shipment to the restaurants, where the open grill line remains "in sight" to customers.

Following the success of the original restaurant, Belt purchased a chain of "Goal Post" restaurants throughout Central Illinois, converting them into Steak 'n Shake restaurants. He also added curb service at this point.[1]

After Gus Belt

Steak 'n Shake continued to expand throughout Illinois following the death of its creator in 1954, with ownership passing through many hands, including Gus's wife Edith (who ran the chain until 1969); Longchamps, Inc. (an east coast steakhouse company that owned the chain from 1969 to 1971); and the Franklin Corporation, led by Robert Cronin, author of Selling Steakburgers: The Growth of a Corporate Culture. In 1981, Steak 'n Shake was sold by Franklin to E. W. Kelley and Associates, whose chairman, E. W. "Ed" Kelley was considered largely responsible for the growth of the restaurant until his death on July 4, 2003.[1] The brand had been declining during the late 1970s and in 1984, it was in the red. Around that time, the headquarters had been transferred from Normal, Illinois to Indianapolis. Kelley hired the former head of Circle K to turn the business around. Steak 'n Shake rapidly improved and expanded throughout the 1990s and into 2000. In early-November 2004, The Steak 'n Shake Company entered into an agreement to buy out its largest franchisee, Kelley Restaurants, Inc. (owned by the late Mr. Kelley's family).[citation needed]


In 2008, there was a shake-up in the company's Board of Directors. Value investors Sardar Biglari and Phillip Cooley were elected to the Board with well over 70% of the votes cast. As a result, Biglari was selected Chairman of the company.[citation needed]

Franchise pricing lawsuits

Between 2012 and 2013, Steak 'n Shake became involved in lawsuits with several of its franchisees concerning mandatory menu prices and mandatory food sourcing. As of August 2013, five lawsuits had been filed. The first lawsuit began in 2010 and is by Stuller, Inc., the Illinois franchisee that is the oldest franchisee in Steak 'n Shake's history. Stuller won a preliminary injunction that went to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2012.[4] Three more franchisees filed suit in April 2013 — Druco Restaurants based in St. Louis, People Sales & Profit Co. based in Georgia, and Scott's S&S Inc. in Pennsylvania.[5] Steak 'n Shake filed suit against Denver franchisees Larry and Christopher Baerns in July 2013 over the same issues, with a counterclaim soon after. The complaints by the franchisees also question whether Steak 'n Shake promised franchise results that could never actually be achieved under its policies.[6]


As of 2015, Steak 'n Shake restaurants are currently located in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In 2011, Steak 'n Shake expanded again with new locations in San Antonio, Houston, and Austin, Texas, and Covington, Louisiana. In January 2012, they opened their first location in New York City.[7] It is adjacent to the Ed Sullivan Theatre, and Indianan David Letterman made a big deal about it on his television show.

Steak 'n Shake has also opened a location inside the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.[8] Another location in Nevada opened in July 2013 in Reno.

In October 2012, Steak 'n Shake announced its first international expansion agreement with plans to open forty locations in the United Arab Emirates. The first of these locations opened in Dubai in 2013.[9] The brand also announced in December 2013 a 50 unit franchise agreement in Saudi Arabia with AB Holdings. The first location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is expected to open in the first half of 2014.[10] Steak 'n Shake also opened a corporate office in Monte Carlo, Monaco to support its expansion in the Middle East and Europe.[11]

Steak 'n Shake expanded to California in July 2014, opening a location in Victorville, California.[12] An L.A. County location opened in Santa Monica in late October and another in Burbank in December. The company plans to add more locations in Orange County and San Diego in the near future.

In September 2015, a Seattle location was announced.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "History". The Steak 'n Shake Company. Archived from the original on August 1, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Biglari Holdings 2014 Annual Report" (PDF). Biglari Holdings. Retrieved 2015-12-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Steak n Shake unveils new restaurant prototype".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Stuller, Inc. v. Steak N Shake Enterprises, Inc, et al, 695 F.3d 676 (7th Cir. August 24, 2012). Docket No. 11-2656.
  5. Olson, Scott (May 1, 2013). "More franchisees join revolt over Steak n Shake menu pricing". Indianapolis Business Journal. Retrieved May 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Olson, Scott (August 5, 2013). "Steak n Shake dispute with franchisees reaches to Denver". Indianapolis Business Journal. Retrieved August 27, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "NYC's First Steak 'n Shake to Open Next to Ed Sullivan Theater".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. South Point opens casino expansion, adds a Steak 'n Shake
  9. [1]
  10. "Steak 'n Shake Announces Major International Expansion Agreement". Retrieved February 21, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Danner, Patrick. "Steak 'n Shake sacrifices earnings for growth". Retrieved February 21, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Steak N' Shake Victorville, California".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Vermillion, Allecia (2015-09-30). "Steak 'n Shake Is Coming to Seattle". Seattle Metropolitan. Retrieved November 13, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links