Steak 'N Shake Almost Became A Different Restaurant. Here's Why

While munching on those long, salty strips of tater heaven known as Steak 'n Shake's Thin 'n Crispy Fries, it is hard to believe that the restaurant we know and love today almost became something — shudder — entirely different. The potentially devastating turn took place around 1969 when the chain was sold to Longchamps, Inc. who, at the time, owned a chain of steakhouse-themed restaurants on the East Coast (via Restaruant-ing Through History).

But, Longchamps had different ideas for Steak 'n Shake, including simplifying food preparation. According to Mental Floss, they implemented cost efficiencies, like making shakes from a mix (yikes!) rather than using ice cream. But the shareholders were not happy. Only three years after acquiring the company, Longchamps was accused of negligence, and they sold their interest to the Franklin Corporation (via Future Blind). It was Robert Cronin of the Franklin Corporation who, thankfully, got Steak n' Shake back on the right, homemade track, bringing the restaurant closer to its roots.

Steak 'n Shake has had a lot of shake-ups

It's not surprising there have been a lot of things shaken up throughout Steak 'n Shake's long history (and not just the red velvet, chocolate chip cookie dough, or yellow birthday cake in their delicious shakes). The chain's story goes back to prohibition, making it the fourth oldest restaurant chain in the world (via Future Blind). When Edith and Gus Belt were no longer able to make money from beer sales at their combination gas station and fried chicken joint, the duo pivoted to steakburgers, gifting the world Steak 'n Shake in 1934 (via Steak 'n Shake).

After Gus passed away, Edith expanded the chain, until it was sold to Longchamps. According to Future Blind, after Longchamps sold to the Franklin Corporation, Robert Cronin ran the company for a decade. It was later sold to Ed W. Kelley, who ran Steak 'n Shake as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1981 through the 1990s. When the chain suffered declining sales for years, Sardar Biglari took over in 2008 via a proxy fight. 

Unfortunately for steakburger fans (and fans of those dream-worthy fries, and did we mention they have chili?), Steak 'n Shake's future remains unclear. According to Restaurant Business Online, the chain has closed around 100 locations since the end of 2018. So, if you are waiting for the right time to order a Frisco Melt (maybe split it into a couple of meals), the right time might be sooner rather than later.