The Midwestern burger chain's CEO floated the figure in a shareholder meeting this week.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 21, 2019

Growing up in the Midwest, I loved Steak ‘n Shake. “It’s a steakburger, not a hamburger” was practically my motto. And mysteriously gooey orange cheese on super thin French fries? Yes, please! But as the Indianapolis Business Journal reports, all is not well in Steak ‘n Shake land. In fact, the publication based in the chain’s home city suggests the company “might not make it.” But CEO Sardar Biglari may have at least one solid plan up his sleeve to help turn things around: Save money on cherries.

“Sardar Biglari said at one point that Steak n Shake spends $1 million per year on cherries for milkshakes and that he would love to get rid of that $1 million,” an investment blogger who listened in on shareholder meetings reportedly wrote. The Indianapolis Business Journal points out that axing cherries wouldn’t quite cover the burger chain’s losses — which were $10.7 million in 2018 and an additional $18.9 million to kick off the first quarter of 2019.

Annabelle Breakey/Getty Images

But apparently, that’s just the cherry (not) on top of Biglari’s overall scheme to use milkshakes to save the company. “He is literally inventing a new milkshake making process — he said at the meeting that this was going to be a patented process — and that is going to speed up service,” an anonymous investor was quoted as saying “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.”

None of this is to say that Steak ‘n Shake is doomed for sure. All milkshake sarcasm aside, the CEO does sound like he truly wants to turn around the brand — which was founded back in 1934 and still has around 400 corporate-owned locations. A bigger part of his plan is to change many of these locations into single-store franchises. Whether these franchisees would be allowed to put cherries back onto milkshakes was not immediately clear.