Scott Hardie | May 26, 2019
What do you think of Steak 'N Shake possibly going out of business? I know there are some Funeratic members here from southern Illinois and the St. Louis area, so I bet there will be opinions. :-)

Samir Mehta | May 26, 2019
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Erik Bates | May 26, 2019
I've eaten at Steak 'N Shake a few times, but have never been all that impressed by them.

A good number of the stores in the St. Louis area have closed recently, so I could kinda see the writing on the wall.

Scott Hardie | May 27, 2019
I'm glad to see the firm punished for not paying overtime, but it sounds like their financial troubles go much further. From other material that I've seen online, the CEO sounds like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. The company is losing ~$17 million per quarter, but his turnaround plans include cutting out cherries from the milkshakes (savings of $1 million per year) and personally, by himself, designing a new milkshake machine that will allow kitchen staff to make shakes faster. If those claims are true, then the company doomed itself the day they hired that bozo.

I went to college in Peoria and Macomb right in the heart of Illinois, and Steak N' Shake was one of the few overnight food options for us college kids still awake and hungry at 3am. And from the latter town, we had to drive 45 minutes to Galesburg to find their nearest location, but we did it often. I must have eaten at Steak N' Shake weekly in those years. I liked nearly everything on the menu, but the chili mac supreme became my lifelong favorite, a perfect delicious blend of spaghetti and chili and cheese. Maybe I should have gone to college in Cincinnati.

Once I settled in Florida, I went less often, but Kelly and I moved into a house around the corner from one and went maybe every 2-3 months. It remains an occasional comfort food to this day. What keeps me from going back more often is the high cost of the food and the slow, slow, slow service. If I'm leaving work and too tired to make dinner and I just want some easy drive-thru, I can get Steak N' Shake for $25 and sit in line for 25 minutes, or I can get nearly anything else for $10 and sit in line for 5 minutes.

Thought experiment: You're the new CEO. (Hey, hiring you at random couldn't be any worse than the current boss.) The firm is circling the drain. What would you do to turn it around?

Scott Hardie | June 1, 2019
Me, I'd primarily turn it around the same way that Dominos Pizza did. Their pizza was terrible and everyone knew it, so the brand invested in significantly improving their food quality, and then took it on the chin in an ad campaign that acknowledged how bad it was and said they were moving forward. It was revolutionary and it worked wonders. Steak 'N Shake has a similar problem with speed of service (I've heard several people complain about it when I asked offline), so I'd invest in ways to speed up the food delivery and then tell people that we know it sucked and we're working hard to improve it. It might be expensive bringing in a lot of new technology and training kitchen staff, but the cost of not doing it is going out of business, so it seems worthwhile to me.

There are lots of other ways to improve the restaurant too, from offering healthy and vegan/vegetarian options as Samir mentioned, to appealing to younger customers with options like ordering food from a tablet at the table (freeing up staff and making delivery even faster). As much as I liked eating there late at night years ago, I'd also close the restaurants overnight, because it has to be costing the company a fortune. By far the biggest expense of a restaurant like that is paying their staff, and every early-morning hour that has several staffers working with almost no one to serve is a waste of money.

But, I predict that the chain will either die off, or do something useless to save itself like remodeling all of the restaurants to have new art on the walls, or at best, limp along for years to come. I don't see a revitalization happening for them unless something drastic happens.

Scott Hardie | June 9, 2019
Samir, just curious, have you tried the vegan "Impossible Whopper" at Burger King that everyone seems to be talking about? Is it any good?

Samir Mehta | June 9, 2019
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Scott Hardie | June 9, 2019
Burger King has had vegetarian options for a while now, right? This is just the first time it's had the Whopper branding on it, if I understand correctly. Good for them. McDonald's has messed up so badly by missing the vegetarian market, even flavoring their French fries with animal byproducts, that I halfway expect them to do the exact opposite of Burger King and introduce a vegetable salad that's actually made of meat. (Now that I write out that idea, I have to say, that sounds more like an Arby's thing.)

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