Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 / 8:55 AM

Steak 'n Shake Freezes Prices for 2012

Indianapolis-based and beloved hometown favorite Steak 'n Shake announced yesterday that it will not increase its menu prices for 2012. And to trumpet the news, S'nS will be giving away an orange freeze with the purchase of a sandwich and fries through Thursday, January 5.  

I like S'nS because they do a lot of things differently: Their prices are already baseline low, they issue coupons like crazy, they have an aggressive "kid's eat free on weekends" program, and there's a “1/2 Price Happy Hour”, and“$3.99 All You Can Eat Pancakes” deal during breakfast hours, and they charge the same menu prices nationwide...which is especially good news for Manhattanites, because in two weeks or so, the first NYC unit will open directly next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater on W 52nd St. (You wanna tell me a double-cheese and fries for $3.99 won't have mass appeal for the crew working The David Letterman show? And how long will take ol' Dave to pop off about their Steakburger Shooters?) 

And now a price freeze. Such news flies in the face of many in the biz who have implemented (or at least hinted) that menu prices in 2012 will rise 2 to 3% to offset the anticipated 3 to 9% increases in the cost of raw commodities. In many states, minimum wages will also rise in 2012, applying more pressure to increase prices. We're not sure exactly how S'nS plans to pull all this off, but we salute the maverick efforts of Sardar Biglari, chairman of parent company Biglari Holdings Inc., who claims they plan to "insulate our customers from inflation while continuing to provide the finest in burgers and shakes."   

We thought we'd ask Frank Cunetto, owner and chief burger smasher at the legendary Carl's Drive In, what his pricing plans were for 2012. "The short answer is I'll try to hold the line," he said, adding, "but meat went up 6% last week, soda just went up 3-4% and is at record levels, as is cheese. And guess what I'm selling...." He noted that the price of oil just ticked back up..."and if that continues, we'll see styrofoam prices increase and another round of fuel surcharges." Cunetto recently received a notice from a vendor announcing "increases virtually all across the board."

But there is hope. "I have noticed that the consumer seems to be upbeat, though" he said. "And as long as they're spending money, we should be OK."      

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