Steak ‘n Shake plans to let customers serve themselves. Here’s what you need to know

Tanasia Kenney
·2 min read

Steak ‘n Shake’s famous burgers and shakes could soon be just a few finger taps away.

The fast food chain plans to emerge from the pandemic as a modernized, quick-serve restaurant. That means transitioning from sit-down service to self-serve kiosks, parent company Biglari Holdings announced this week.

Chairman and CEO Sardar Biglari said Steak ‘n Shake is entering “an era of radical transformation” spurred by COVID-19.

“Simply put, the operation of dining rooms with table service was a money loser,” Biglari wrote in an annual letter to investors. “What I had previously assessed as a sustainable competitive advantage proved to be anything but when our labor expenses continued to rise over the last several years.”

The report says Steak ‘n Shake had a net operating loss of $1.8 million.

Executives hope shifting from a full-service to a self-service model will speed up the way Steak ‘n Shake fulfills customer orders.

The chain boasts over 550 locations across the U.S., though its dining rooms remain closed due to the pandemic. When they reopen, customers will have the option to place their orders via a kiosk instead of ordering with a server at a table or counter.

“We are embracing efficiency and transitioning the service model to empower our guests to place and pick up their own orders,” Biglari wrote.

In his letter, the CEO said there were plans to move away from full-service prior to the pandemic, but the virus “hastened the inevitable.”

Changing consumer habits coupled with COVID-19 have forced other restaurants to re-think their business models as well. Brands including Starbucks, KFC and Taco Bell have since shifted focus to drive-thru and pick-up only options as customers seek safety and convenience.

Steak ‘n Shake also hopes to provide speed and efficiency in its revamp, which is slated to cost between $100,000 and $200,000 per restaurant, according to the letter. This includes interior renovations and installing the self-service kiosks.

There’s no definitive timeline on when the restaurant’s dining rooms could reopen. However, Biglari says the changes will be phased in with priority going to franchises that “possess exemplary leadership.”

“Despite the innovations underway, what is fundamental to the company — Steakburgers and milkshakes — remains the same,” he wrote.