Steak ‘n Shake Franchisees Earn Big Money

For a total investment of just $10,000, franchise partners can earn six figures by partnering with America’s fourth oldest burger brand.

Original Double Steakburger with Cheese Combo

In 2018, the classic Midwestern restaurant chain famous for steakburgers and milkshakes made a revolutionary decision: Franchise company-owned Steak ‘n Shake restaurants for a total investment of only $10,000.

How Much Money Are Franchise Partners Making?

Over the last three years, the average franchisee made about $137,000* per year. Some earn more than $200,000. “Becoming a franchise partner with Steak ‘n Shake has been a life changing choice for me. I have more flexibility in work and family life, I make more money, and can choose how active I am in the community,” shared Tamara Beachy. 

Sardar Biglari, CEO of Steak ‘n Shake, said, “Doubtless, a good number of our partners will become millionaires. But make no mistake: We are not minting millionaires but merely providing the means—they are earning every penny.”

It’s The Lowest-Cost Restaurant Franchise In America

Steak ‘n Shake Franchise Partner Howard Readus

In traditional restaurant franchises like McDonald’s or Wendy’s, the upfront costs can be upwards of $2 million, not including the time required to find land, build a restaurant, and hire and train staff. Steak ‘n Shake’s franchise partner program, in contrast, costs only $10,000. 

“The $10,000 investment is a drop in a bucket compared to the income,” Kentucky franchise partner Donnie Thompson pointed out. “I assure you that it is worth it, both for the hard work you put in and the reward you will receive after your hard work.”   

“It is important to understand that the program is different than most traditional franchise arrangements,” added Biglari. “A franchise partnership is a passport that cannot be purchased but only earned. It takes talent along with the passion to serve others; a rare combination that is woven into the character of each individual we accept.”

Before acceptance into the program, prospective partners go through a multi-week training program and must have their restaurant meet the gold standard in service. 

What Does It Take?

It takes hard work, but for those willing to put in the hours, it’s not out of reach. Since the program began in 2018, Steak ‘n Shake has received over 50,000 applications, and only 175 have been accepted. With an approval rate of under 1%, the program has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard Business School.  Notably, many Steak n’ Shake franchise partners exceed the first-year average compensation of those who’ve earned a Harvard MBA. Making the process more selective yet is the fact that half the company-operated units have been filled, meaning 177 franchises are available for applicants who meet the rigorous standards. 

According to the company, franchise partners are self-starters, have a passion for excellence, and absolutely devoted to pleasing customers. Restaurant management experience, however, is not a requirement.  

No Absentee Ownership

Steak ‘n Shake Franchise Partner Todd Baumann

Steak ‘n Shake franchise partners cannot have additional business ventures; they run the day-to-day business. Absentee ownership is not an option, and intense work weeks are initially the norm. 

“To succeed as a franchise partner, you have to be dedicated and committed to your restaurant, team and community on a day to day basis.” said Howard Readus, an Indianapolis franchise partner.  “Make sure you are doing this because you truly care about people and helping them improve their lives. The money is there to make, but the people are far more important than the financial gain.”  

Simply put, Steak ‘n Shake is looking to create the world’s greatest culture in the hospitality industry. “In the end, nothing is as important as the way our customers are treated. It takes the right leadership in a unit for customers to be served in a warm, caring, and hospitable manner. To achieve our goal, we are building a culture of ownership at the unit level. For operators to think and act like owners, we believe they must be owners. We are becoming a company of owners, changing the culture of the organization in our quest for service excellence,” said Biglari.  

Of course it helps that the company is on solid financial footing. Steak ‘n Shake announced in 2021 that it is one of the few debt-free restaurant chains in America.

If you have what it takes to live the American dream, apply here:

This article is supported and sponsored by Steak ‘n Shake. Steak ‘n Shake and Maxim are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Biglari Holdings. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. 

*Based on the 137 Steak ‘n Shake Franchise Partner Program franchisee outlets opened as of December 28, 2022 and which were open for the entire 12-month period ending December 28, 2022, as published in our June 30, 2023 Franchise Disclosure Document. Of these 137 outlets, 67 (49%) met or exceeded $136,668 average annual Earnings. However, your individual results may vary and there is no assurance that you will do as well.