Gary Leonard sold to another franchisee his six Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in the Springfield, Missouri, region, including the historic one on Route 66.
The Springfield News-Leader reports Leonard is retiring after 48 years in the business. The new owners are Mike and Lisa Stennett, who hold franchises in Missouri and Arkansas.
The story contains statements from both parties:
“Mike and Lisa’s experience and their strong ties to the Ozarks makes them the perfect successors to the business and legacy that my family and our team have built,” Leonard said. “We are thrilled to leave our restaurants, customers and employees in such capable hands.” […]
“We thank Gary and his family for being such good stewards of their Steak ’n Shake stores in Springfield,” said Mike Stennett in the Thursday news release. “We are so excited to embrace this wonderful community.”
Stennett, like Leonard, holds a long family history with Steak ‘n Shake. Stennett’s father joined the restaurant chain in 1968. Mike joined his dad in the business in 1990 at a site in Branson, Missouri.
The news comes the same week the financially struggling corporation announced it was abandoning its table service for self-service kiosks. The chain already was in bad shape before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has worsened its condition.
The crown jewel of Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in Springfield is the one at St. Louis Street (aka Route 66) and National Avenue that Leonard owns. The restaurant, built in 1962, was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. It contains nearly all of its original features.
Despite a round of restaurant closures in 2019, Leonard told us in a comment all of his Steak ‘n Shakes are independently franchised and “will be open for a long time in to the future.”
Many Route 66 enthusiasts hope the Stennetts hold the same resolve.
Indiana-based Steak ‘n Shake, founded in 1934 by Gus Belt along U.S. 66 in Normal, Illinois, contains about 600 locations, mostly in the Midwest. Its steakburgers, milkshakes and chili mac supremes remain a favorite for quite a few folks of a certain age.
Alas, the original Steak ‘n Shake in Normal was razed many years ago and replaced with a pizza parlor.
(Image of the historic Steak ‘n’ Shake restaurant along Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri, by George Thomas via Flickr)