Per a recent Business Insider report, the chain lost roughly $19 million in the first three months of 2019. In 2018, the same year S&P Global Markets named Steak 'n Shake one of the companies most likely to go bankrupt, it lost an annual total of $10.7 million. Additionally, the brand has faced criticism (and legal action) related to its failure to pay millions in overtime.
U.S. District Judge John A. Ross ordered that the company pay an additional $3 million in liquidated damages to affected employees, which follows the previous estimated $3 million jury-awarded amount. Per a report from the San Antonio Express-News earlier this month, Steak 'n Shake is also on the hook for $1.6 million in attorneys' fees and another $40,000 in related costs.
In April, Sardar Biglari—CEO of Steak 'n Shake parent company Biglari Holdings—had his pay limits lifted. Per Restaurant Business, Biglari's pay will no longer be cut off at the $10 million mark. Some have gone as far as theorizing that these perceived setbacks, including store closures and apparent frustrations with Biglari, could signal an outright end to the franchise.
In a piece for the Indianapolis Business Journal, Greg Andrews said "the outlook is that bad" for Steak 'n Shake. The piece also includes comments from shareholders who attended a recent investors meeting, which sounds like it went awkwardly.
"The shareholders seemed to think this was ridiculous—and I would tend to agree—to think that Sardar, with all his free time, is going to be able to invent a milkshake process to turn the whole chain around," one shareholder said of a plan for milkshake making reinvetion Biglari reportedly presented at the meeting.
A former district manager echoed these concerns, saying in the same IBJ piece that the brand is on a path to "failure."