It’s been a decade since I’ve eaten any beef, but I still remember getting a craving for a Steak ‘n Shake double steakburger and a side-by-side chocolate and banana milkshake. Sure, the burger was greasy and unhealthy as hell, but still so tasty. My daughter and her high school friends went there often to have french fries and shakes.
The problem was that it always seemed to take forever for the staff to prepare the food. In the drive-thru lane, each car seemed to sit for at least five minutes before getting their order. That meant if you were fourth in line, it could be 20 minutes before you ate. That’s just too long to satisfy a craving, which, by definition means I WANT IT NOW. There were a couple of occasions where I got so antsy sitting there that I thought about jumping the curb and just forgetting about the whole thing — but I stayed, paid, and scarfed the meal down on the way home.
However, even before I gave up eating dead cows, the Steak ‘n Shake timing got to be too much and I never went back. I wasn’t alone, as the company’s same-store sales have been dropping for years. Recently, when I heard that several of Steak ‘n Shake’s outlets in the St. Louis area were “closing for renovations,” I thought some business consultant had come through and figured out a way to speed up the service. That turns out not to be the case.
According to a lawsuit, Steak ‘n Shake was forcing some of its managers to work excessive hours without paying them overtime. Recently, a judge ordered the company to pay the 286 managers (and their attorneys) a total of $7.7 million, and there’s another lawsuit from 1,300 more managers. That’s a big hole for the chain to dig out of.
Of course, if precedent tells us anything, Steak ‘n Shake may have heard the judge’s order, but that doesn’t mean it’s hustling to the window to hand over the cash and make any kind of change.