For many midwestern diners, Steak ‘n Shake is the very definition of good, simple eating. As close to a classic greasy spoon as a chain restaurant can get, customers have frequented the Steak ‘n Shake location on Reynolds Rd. (across from the Amazon warehouse) for years, ordering a classic Steakburger, served table side by waitstaff.
Times change, however, and so has Steak ‘n Shake. Under new ownership, the Reynolds Rd. location now greets visitors not with a server, but a set of four touch-screen kiosks. After placing their order on the screen, paying via credit card and grabbing a receipt with their order number, customers then pour their own beverage and find their own seats. Once their food is ready, diners collect it from the counter. There is no at-table service anymore.
A new way to shake
Dustin Waters, shift manager at the Reynolds Rd. location, said that the new setup is standard for all Steak ‘n Shakes around the country. It has less to do with health concerns and customers preferring contact-free service, however, and more to do with the worker shortages that have proven difficult for many industries.
“They haven’t been able to get the proper number of employees in to be able to staff for the servers,” Waters said. “So this is kind of a good balance in-between, so we can still provide a dine-in service while still being able to keep the restaurant open.”
Waters has worked for the Reynolds location since August, when new owner Nathan Sarmiento took over the restaurant. The dining area had been closed at the location since the onset of COVID in 2020, until the kiosks were installed last December. Steak ‘n Shake as a chain began introducing the kiosks at locations around the country in March of last year.
“It’s definitely brought our sales up a good bit, because Steak ‘n Shake is primarily known for dining in, obviously. While that is a key part of our business, we’ve just been kind of excited to bring that back. A lot of customers have been requesting it, for sure,” Waters said.
The experience of dining in has been missed by much of Steak ‘n Shake’s target customers, some of which have had difficulty adjusting to the new arrangement.
“A lot of our customer base is older gentlemen and women, and they’re kind of struggling to understand why we needed to go through this process. But after we help and assist them, most of them are beyond grateful,” Waters said.
Customers also have the option to place their orders online for pick-up, available at the counter inside. Despite all the changes to the service, the core of the Steak ‘n Shake dining experience– the classic Steakburgers, fries and milkshakes– remain as tempting as ever. And Waters is quick to point out that the staff are on site to be as helpful as ever, even if they aren’t delivering right to your table anymore.
“It’s a lot more self-service, obviously, but yet again, we’re always still here to help. So if anybody has any issues, or any concerns with it, we’ll still come over and we’ll make sure that we’ll get them on the right track.”
2141 S. Reynolds Rd. 419-381-6805. steaknshake.com