Steak ‘n Shake started in 1934 and has since become one of the most recognized casual restaurant chains serving premium burgers and milkshakes in the country. Since then, the concept has evolved into a favorite franchise for entrepreneurs due to a low upfront investment fee of only $10,000. Compare this to other fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s with upfront investments in the ball-park of million bucks and you can see why it’s so appealing.

A recently opened Steak ‘n Shake restaurant.

Steak ‘n Shake’s franchise partner program is different than most. Participation requires an investment of only $10,000 – a number you don’t usually see when we’re talking about restaurant franchises. With a liquid capital of just $10,500 and a total investment of about $10,000, the Steak ‘n Shake offers a unique opportunity for ambitious entrepreneurs without deep financial resources.

But there is a bit of a catch. Steak ‘n Shake offers a “franchise partner” program that doesn’t grant you true ownership of a business unit like other franchise opportunities. Instead, you serve as a general manager of a store that gets to benefit from the income the store generates. More on this role distinction later, but it’s kind of how the Chick-fil-A model works.

If you’re interested in franchising a Steak ‘n Shake shop, continue reading as I share the most important details in determining if it is a worthwhile investment. Let’s get started. Take our 8-minute franchise quiz to find out if this quick-serve restaurant is the right choice. 

Financial Requirements and Fees

As reported, the total investment to become a franchise partner in a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant is just $10,000. If you were to buy into a regular restaurant franchise, here are some of the expenses you would either need to pay or take out a loan on.

As you can see, the overhead of building a new restaurant location can quickly reach $1 – $2 million. The advantage from a startup cost perspective with the franchise partner program is that you won’t need to cover the numerous construction, signage, furniture, and inventory expenses that are outlined below.

NET WORTH $1,500,000
FRANCHISE FEE $25,000 – $40,000
ESTIMATED INITIAL INVESTMENT (Steak ‘n Shake Classic Restaurant Franchise) $1,375,000 – $2,135,000
ESTIMATED INITIAL INVESTMENT (Limited-Menu, In-Line Burger Franchise) In-Line: $475,000 – $1,385,000


Here’s a detailed breakdown of all other fees included and needed to launch a Steak ‘n Shake franchise that are part of the estimated initial investment fee.



PRE-OPENING EXPENSES $5,000 – $10,000


TRAINING EXPENSES $16,000 – $55,000
IMPACT & TAP FEES $5,000 – $78,000
EXTENSION FEE $0 – $10,000
TOTAL $1,208,000 – $1,687,000


Financial Requirements

Before signing an agreement to franchise any type of business, you must understand what you’re getting into and that includes knowing how much money you are forking out and all other fees you are paying for.

There are two ways to get involved as a franchise owner / operator of Steak ‘n Shake. The first is a traditional franchise agreement where franchise fee is $25,000 within an anticipated initial investment between $1 – $2 million.

But there is a way to own part of Steak ‘n Shake for less than that called the franchise partner program. For only $10,000 you are given the right to operate a franchised Steak ‘n Shake and earn 50% of restaurant profits. For many this is a good option since the alternative may not be possible.

As a franchise partner, you’ll be taking over the operations of an existing company owned Steak ‘n Shake location. At the time of writing, Steak ‘n Shake has 272 company owned restaurant locations. The appealing aspect of this approach that the location you take over is already up and running in most cases. The one ingredient missing is a leader like you to step in to increase sales.

Inside a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant.

How Much Profit Do Steak ‘n Shake Make Per Year?

This is one of the important parts to look at when you’re deciding to buy a franchise. Although not all franchise stores are equal and the same as they differ in location, size, etc., it is safe to gauge how much profit a Steak ‘n Shake franchise can make in a year and see if it’s a number you can accept.

An interview with Maxim revealed that in 2020, the average Steak ‘n Shake franchisee partner earned $161,079 in 2020. Some of the top performers were on track to earn $300,000 in their first year.

Press McDowell, a St. Louis, Missouri franchisee shared that he earned in 2 months what he made in 1 year in his previous job and that the $10,000 payment to join the franchise program is the best investment he ever made. McDowell made close to 20 times the amount of his previous job the first year of franchising the store.

Thinking about Franchising? Take Our 8-Minute Franchise Quiz to Find the Best Option For You.

Remember that this is just one Steak ‘n Shake franchisee and it doesn’t mean that all franchise partners are smiling from ear to ear like with the example reported here.

If possible, interview 4 to 5 more franchisees and ask them the right questions about their experience. Find out what these operators struggle with. What makes them