Combining the efficiency of a fast-food restaurant with the good-ol’ diner characteristic and menu, Steak ‘n Shake has been around for the last 79 years. Originating in Illinois, its operations are now in Indianapolis, Indiana. To date, Steak ‘n Shake runs over 400 restaurants and 100 franchised outlets around the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern areas.
From a gas station and then a chicken restaurant
Once a gas station-turned-chicken restaurant that catered to hungry motorists, founder Gus Belt converted the two combined establishments into a hamburger stand in his hometown of Normal, Illinois in 1934. By 1939, Belt’s restaurant grew, opening in eight locations.
Belt insisted on the quality of his products. The restaurant chain’s motto is “In Sight It Must Be Right,” which refers to the restaurant’s practice of grinding the beef in front of their customers, to reassure them that its steak burgers are made from pure, 100% beef, no extenders.
In 1948, Steak ‘n Shake moved its operations to St. Louis, Missouri, catering to a bigger market. However, it continued to expand within Illinois. Gus Belt died in 1954, leaving his wife Edith to run the chain. In the early 1960s, Steak n’ Shake’s original building was destroyed by fire but it quickly rebuilt itself and moreover expanded and refurbished its dining area.
Steak ‘n Shake declining and rising again
In 1969 Edith Belt sold the 51-unit chain to Longchamps Inc. a steakhouse company which was based in the East Coast area. Longchamps ran the restaurant until 1971, when it sold its interest to Franklin Corporation. By 1975, Steak ‘n Shake’s outlets grew to 175. However, the brand name began to decline by the late 1970s up to the early 1980s.
For this, the Franklin Corporation handed its shares to Ed Kelley in 1981. Kelley was the founder of Consolidated Products and was responsible for turning Steak ‘n Shake around from its financial muddle. Once again, Steak ‘n Shake rapidly recovered and expanded during the 1990s up to 2000’s. In 2000, Kelley’s Consolidated Products replaced his chain of Specialty Restaurants with Steak ‘n Shake restaurants as the company’s main business. Kelley ran the chain until his death in 2003.
Steak ‘n Shake’s biggest franchisee was Kelley Restaurants Inc. (owned by the late Kelley’s family) and was bought out by the former in 2000 through an agreement. As a result, all of Kelley Restaurant’s 16 chains were purchased by Steak ‘n Shake for about $1 million each.
Steak ‘n Shake menus, and international expansion plans
In 2011, Steak ‘n Shake opened more restaurants in Texas and Louisiana; the following year, it opened its first branch in New York City. It also has plans for an international expansion which will begin in the United Arab Emirates sometime in 2013. Steak ‘n Shake has never gotten bigger than ever before, and its growth seems to be inevitably unstoppable.
The diner-style restaurant’s flagship food item is of course, their “Steakburger,” which is made of a combination of T-bone, sirloin and round steaks. Steak ‘n Shake also serves late-night menus which consist of buffalo chicken fingers, steakburger skillet as well as French fries dressed in nacho style dressing or chili and bacon dressing. As many of its restaurants are running 24 hours a day, Steak ‘n Shake also serves a full breakfast including a meal of unlimited fluffy pancakes — all pancakes that you can eat until you’re full.
As was mentioned earlier, Steak ‘n Shake plans to enter the international market. They’ve captured the American palate, and it’s now poised to cater to global tastes. Only time will tell when the restaurant chain will open more international outlets in the future if that happens at all, as the world is only waiting to have a taste of Steak ‘n Shake.
Steak ‘n Shake – so many options, only one stomach