GOING RETRO: Steak ‘n Shake brings back carhop service to help fight pandemic

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Credit: Contributed photo by WaltShotMe

Steak ’n Shake is going back to its drive-in roots to offer a new — well, old — service model that appears to be well-suited to battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials with the Indianapolis-based chain has announced that hundreds of its restaurants throughout the country — including five locations in the Dayton region — have resurrected drive-in service by carhops, which they called “a perfect way to enjoy some old-fashioned fun while staying socially-distant.”

Here’s how it works, according to a Steak ‘n Shake release:

Customers can pull into one of the designated carhop parking spaces, denoted by signage evoking a 45 RPM record. They then open the Steak ‘n Shake app and place an order, then select a “Car Hop” option and enter vehicle details. A server will deliver a tray and attach it to the car window, just as Steak ‘n Shake employees did for decades in the chain’s early years. Customers can dine in their car or at one of each location’s socially-distanced, umbrella-covered picnic tables.

“The Steak ‘n Shake parking lot was the place to be on a Saturday night in the 1950s, with carhops buzzing in between rows of cars filled with families, couples on dates, and teenagers,” company officials said in a release.

“Our modern version of the Drive-In not only reinforces those early days with delivery right to your car, but it also fits perfectly into today’s reality, offering our guests a way to enjoy dining out of the house while still protecting their family’s health,” Steve May, senior vice president of Steak ‘n Shake, said in the release.

A spokeswoman for Steak ‘n Shake listed five Dayton-area locations where carhop service is available: 6380 Wilmington Pike in the Centerville-Sugarcreek Twp. area, 2856 Center Drive at the I-675/North Fairfield Road interchange in Fairborn, at 8311 Old Troy Pike in Huber Heights, at 8420 Springboro Pike at Lyons Road south of the Dayton Mall, at 1741 Bechtle Ave. in Springfield; and 831 Clepper Lane in Cincinnati.

Company officials also announced it has brought back the Cajun Burger, which is available only via carhop service through August.

Steak ‘n Shake has has shut down a handful of Dayton-area restaurants in recent years. Three Miami Valley locations — Moraine, Englewood and Middletown — are currently listed as “temporarily closed” on the Steak ‘n Shake web site.

When Steak ‘n Shake closed its restaurant on Miller Lane in Butler Twp. in March 2019, a spokeswoman for the chain said the closure was temporary as the chain transitioned from corporate-operated to franchisee-operated restaurants. But eight months later, in November 2019, the property and building were sold by Steak ‘n Shake Inc. to a new buyer who signed a contract for a City Barbeque to open at that location.

In May 2020, the chain announced it was permanently closing 51 of its company-owned restaurants nationwide as it struggled to cope with the coronavirus pandemic that contributed to a 37 percent drop in sales in the first quarter of 2020, according an earnings report filed by Steak ‘n Shake’s corporate parent.

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