Beef and ice cream is an unbeatable combination for this restaurant company. Formerly The Steak n Shake Company, Biglari Holdings is a multi-concept dining operator with two chains operating under the names Steak n Shake and WesterN SizzliN. Its flagship concept encompasses more than 480 company-owned and franchised family dining spots in more than 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and Southeast. The diners, open 24-hours a day, are popular for their Steakburger sandwiches and milkshakes, as well as breakfast items and other dishes. About 410 of the units are company-owned, while the rest are franchised. WesterN SizzliN, meanwhile, oversees about 90 franchised steak buffet restaurants in about 15 states.
Under the leadership of CEO Sardar Biglari, the company has transformed from a pure-play dining business into a diversified holding company. It acquired the Western SizzliN chain in 2010 in a deal valued at almost $40 million. (Biglari had significant control of both businesses; his Lion's Fund owns more than 5% of Steak n Shake.) In light of its new strategic focus, Steak n Shake changed its name to Biglari Holdings in 2010. An activist investor, Biglari replaced Wayne Kelley as CEO in 2008 and previously pursued an acquisition of family dining and ice cream chain Friendly's.
As for its dining brands, Steak n Shake has built a popular following in the midsection of the country. It competes with other regional favorites such as Frisch's Big Boy (owned by Frisch's Restaurants) and Skyline Chili, as well as national chains such as Denny's. A pioneer in the family dining industry, the brand lacks broader brand recognition, which has hampered attempts to expand far from its core markets.
The family dining industry has been under pressure from the downturn in the economy, forcing Steak n Shake to focus on cutting costs. Part of the effort has included closing a handful of under-performing locations. The company is also selling some of its corporate-run locations to franchise operators. – less