Owner of Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in Springfield, Missouri, sells them to a franchisee

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)

7 thoughts on “Owner of Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in Springfield, Missouri, sells them to a franchisee

  1. We have a steak n shake where I live
    It appear to be struggling to stay open as well
    Part of the problem is there is a burger place in town that is the best in a 50 mile radius in my opinion. The other problem is it is competing with at least 8 other fast food burger places .
    Last is the patty they put on the burger is really thin so the taste of the patty is lost in the bun
    You never see more than one or two cars at it
    I really think if they increased the thickness of the patty it would make a big difference

    1. Increasing the thickness of the patty would go against more than 80 years of tradition at Steak ‘n Shake. You would lose far more longtime customers than gain new ones.

  2. Maybe up in your area but down this way ,I do not think it would.
    They are competing with at least 8 other places and all of them have a thicker patty than steak n shake.
    One place here locally serves a burger with a patty that is about 3/4 ” thick
    When a business is struggling then it is time to look at doing something different

    1. You clearly don’t comprehend what I’m saying. The thin patty has been a part of Steak ‘n Shake for many decades. Why would you alienate longtime customers who expect it at its 600 locations?

      If you want to add a thicker burger, fine. To eliminate the thin one is foolhardy.

  3. You are in the same boat as I am then .You are not comprehending what I am saying
    Even your article states that Steak N Shake places are struggling to stay in business
    When a business is competing with other businesses and those businesses are giving more then you are then you have to do something.
    Price is not the issue
    When a business closes up early or stays closed nearly all day due to lack of business they need to change something
    It may be tradition up in your neck of the woods
    They just opened up here about a year ago and have slowly lost business since
    It is a tough crowd here for fast food places because of competition
    Two big name chicken placed have opened and closed three times
    A famous burger joint has closed twice
    Tradition is fine and I am all for it but there comes a time when you may have to do something different to survive

  4. Yes need to keep Steak N Shakes traditions. Do no change any of the structure of the steak burger. Most of the St. Louis and Metro east S n S have closed. However there is one in Litchfield, Illinois built about 8 years ago and doing well. About 2 years ago they even added on to their present building. My first encounter with S n S was in 1954. Living in Pine Lawn, Mo, same street as the Ted Drewes family, one was built 4 houses up on Natural Bridge Ave. With no A/C back then, with windows open and breeze blowing right, all one could smell was the sweet aroma of the Steak N Shake menu. Sweet memories. Leave S n S the same. no changes.

  5. It seems to me, the question is whether the independent restaurateurs, like the Stennets, who own their Steak & Shakes, can withstand what Bigliari Holdings has done that brand. There were three S&S’s in my hometown. Both of the corporate stores have closed. The independent one remains open and seems to be holding its own for now. But there has been a dramatic decrease in value and quality these past few years. Business journalists have predicted for a couple years that Steak ‘n’ Shake won’t be around much longer. If Bigliari doesn’t find some way to right his ship, it may well sink.

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