The Big Change Steak 'N Shake Is Making To Its Restaurants

Since 1934, Steak 'n Shake has never significantly veered from offering its burgers and milkshakes via table service in its restaurant dining rooms — albeit with the exception of right now, when most of its 556 dining rooms have been closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a February 26, 2021 statement made by chairman of the restaurant chain's parent company, Sardar Biglari, to the company shareholders. But therein lies the rub, according to Biglari, who explained that the pandemic brought to management's attention the fact that table service was not the profit center they had long believed it to be. 

As a result, change is a-coming, and it appears to be "radical," in Biglari's own word. In the aforementioned statement, Biglari announced that whenever restaurant dining rooms fully reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic, Steak 'n Shake will no longer offer table service. Instead, Steak 'n Shake dining rooms will adopt a kiosk-based ordering system. "What will be most evident to our returning patrons is that instead of ordering at the table, or even at a counter with an attendant, our guests will now initiate their transaction at a kiosk," Biglari wrote.  

If you're a fan of the chain restaurant's current format, the news may seem a bit unsettling — at least at first. However, when you consider the bigger picture, you might just find yourself coming to see that the big change Steak 'n Shake is making to its restaurants is a welcome one. 

There could be a silver-lining to the big change Steak 'n Shake is proposing

Steak 'n Shake has been offering burgers and shakes via table service at its restaurants for 87 years "and counting," according to Biglari, chairman of the restaurant's parent company, in that February 26 statement to company shareholders. At various points in time, the business has turned a handsome profit. However, the last three years presented challenges, leading ultimately to the realization by Biglari and other members of management that "the operation of dining rooms with table service was a money loser."

"Despite the innovations underway, the structure of what is fundamental to the company — steakburgers and milkshakes – remains the same," Biglari assured shareholders. What will change will be the way menu items are made and delivered to guests. "We are embracing efficiency and transitioning the service model to empower our guests to place and pick up their own orders," with the end result being a better financial outlook. And ultimately, one can hope that will mean enjoying Steak 'n Shake's menu offerings for a long time to come.