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Steak ‘n Shake Takes New Ad Direction

Filed under Advertising, Branding, breakfast

Dad bribes the kids in Steak 'n Shake's new "Just No Equal" campaign.

Steak ‘n Shake, working with its first agency of record in several years, touts its distinctive style and menu in new advertising that uses the theme line, “Just No Equal” (watch it here).

The Indianapolis-based chain named one-time Wendy’s shop Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners in New York City to handle its account earlier this year. The chain spent $17.7 million on measured-media advertising in 2010, up about 4% from 2009, according to Ad Age. Since splitting with long-time agency Young & Laramore in 2009, Steak ‘n Shake reportedly had been without a lead agency.

Advertising during the past year included a couple of odd TV spots with Steak ‘n Shake employee Mike and his talking paper hat, who chatted about what makes the chain great. Those spots–created by The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, Fla.–used the tagline, “Life Needs Flavor.” The first of the  “Just No Equal” spots depicts a father bribing his kids with the “4 Meals Under $4” at Steak ‘n Shake so they won’t tell Mom who broke the china penguin.

Previous TV spots used "Mike" and his talking hat.

The chain—which reports that 60% of its sales come from dining room/counter guests, with the remainder coming from drive thru and pickup—recently has expanded its breakfast menu to more firmly establish Steak ‘n Shake as an all-day concept. New additions include a $3.99 All-You-Can-Eat-Pancakes special, Country Skillet meals and Perfect Start Oatmeal. Lunch/dinner specials include new Peach and Key Lime Milk Shakes, a California Double Steakburger and a Royale Steakburger topped with a fried egg. 

Since becoming part of financier Sardar Biglari’s Biglari Holdings company, Steak ‘n Shake has shown sales growth. For the 28 weeks ended April, 2011, sales for the 413 company-owned restaurants were up 3%. There also are 75 franchised units. For fiscal 2010, same-store sales were up 7.5%. That came from a 10.6% increase in customer traffic that was slightly offset by lower selling prices.

Biglari Holdings also owns the Western Sizzlin chain. Earlier this week, it was reported that Biglari Holdings paid $100 million for a 9.7% stake in the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store chain.

26 Responses to Steak ‘n Shake Takes New Ad Direction

  1. Steve Noskowicz

    Just saw this one. OK, so you can take your kids to Steak ‘n Shake so you can teach them to lie.

    Nice concept!

  2. Lisa Baker

    Love the new direction. Funny and endearing. Seems like something my kids would do to get their hand on a burger ;-) The talking hat was creeping me out.

  3. Justin Grimm

    I laughed when i saw this spot. SNS is getting modern in the new work and the guys look, the kids reaction is hysterical. Sooooo much beter than the hat. Bravo for my favorite chain putting up some serious humor.

  4. EddieZ

    I’m just befuddled at $100mm for a piece of Cracker Barrel.

  5. margo

    I’ve never been to Steak n Shake and now I know I never will. Sick of commercials with uppity kids and wimpy dads.

  6. Sam

    The talking hat one was Steak n Shake? lol I didn’t even know, it was so annoying. I think they lost a lot of money in that campaign without gaining many customers.

  7. Dennis

    I have frequented S&S for forty years but now I will not. Any commercial that portrays all the WRONG ideals in life is enough to cause us all concern. Your ad portrays a fumbling and cowardly father who is terrified of his wife and is intimidated by his children. It shows the children, particularly the eldest as scheming, conniving and willing to blackmail their parent to get a burger. Super job of presenting morally sound values to your audience. Steak and Shake loses on this one. Unfortunately so does our culture.

  8. Betty

    I like this commerical. I can’t believe how much the kids actually look like they could be siblings and the biological children of the man who plays their father in the commerical.

  9. Mystisch


    POST::::> My family is boycotting Steak ‘N Shake right now because of your Penguin commercial which we feel promotes Lying!! ~ Seriously!! ~ What does this commercial teach our children now a days?? ~ It’s ‘sadly’ a cute commercial yet it does teach lying!! ~ Sorry, It’s just sad for me to see our kids and Grand-kids ‘making light’ of lying after they see that commercial or any others like that one. ~ It doesn’t matter what you/we try to teach them if they have access to those kind of commercials and see others acting that way in School and all around them everywhere. ~ Again, Sorry… It just makes me sad whenever I see that commercial. :(
    August 4 at 9:05am

    Steak ‘n Shake ~ We’re so sorry to hear that, as we value your opinion. The scene satirizes a family moment that concludes with a light-hearted meal. ~ August 11, 2011 <:::: END POST

  10. Robyn

    It’s the negative comments above from people with no sense of humor that are sad, not the commercial! The ad is obviously funny and lighthearted and clearly conveys their promotion. If you’re looking to S&S or any other food chain to teach your children morals and values, you have some serious issues. I think it’s a tasteful, tongue ‘n cheek look at everyday average life with kids, and I commend them for using good clean humor to promote their brand. I loved it, and anything is better than the talking hat!

  11. Carol

    Just wanted to say that I LOVE the penguin commercial….and the 1:59….:o) A couple of brilliant ones, for sure! Keep it up! Love the refreshing non-sexist (no cleavage! and sexual tones!)

    Just wish there was a S &S in our county! :o)


  12. Gary Stephens

    What is sad, Robyn and Carol, is that you ignore the subliminal message in this commercial. That’s due either your ignorance or lack of maturity. The idea that this is so funny to you reflects your shallow uninvolved lives. I mean just look at those oh, so funny Friday Night Live skits and the values they displayed and look at the idiots they spawned…an entire generation of Jackasses.

  13. Steve

    This is a great commercial! The dad is funny and the kids are cute. I love the background music too. Good job, Steak ‘n Shake!

  14. Kathy

    The commercial with broken penguin and telling children that it is OK to LIE is an insult!. Why not have a commercial where the kids get to go to S & S for getting better grades, helping Grandma, or something positive.
    Negative directions should not be encouraged.

  15. Rhonda Erwin

    I adore the Steak and Shake Penguin Commercial, I really do want to know: Are the man and kids related, they resemble one another so much! People get a life, its just a commercial, and meant to catch humor: Talk about it to the kids like you would any thing else that doesn’t “fit” your moral barometer. Geez!

  16. Cecelia

    I love this commercial; laugh everytime I see it. Where did you find those two kids that look just like the dad, and the girl who looks just like the mom? The smirk on the older girl’s face is a riot. This is really cute and not to be taken seriously. I hope it receives an award!

  17. Michelle Teheux

    I LOVE the penguin commercial. My husband and I laugh every time. The look on the actors’ faces are priceless. The horror of the husband and two younger kids — and then the smirky look on the oldest girl — you can see she is thinking “Oh, yeah, I can profit from this.” Hilarious!

  18. Linda Bond

    I think the penguin commercial is an insult to all men. Some may find it funny. What don’t you do a Mom? Men have taken a beating for far too long.

  19. Mary

    I keep the TV on for background noise as I work on the computer so I’ve been missing the first 10 seconds of this commercial and never really understood the ending. (I always thought the kids were super-creepy.) So tonight I made a special point of watching the entire commercial on YouTube. My reaction is:

    1. The kids and the commercial are still super-creepy. What’s with the weird stares???
    2. Yes, it is sending the message that it’s OK to blackmail dad into lying about the broken figurine.

    I’m really getting tired of the lack of integrity in our country.

  20. cheryl

    Disappointed in the message this commercial sends – deception, lies, and bribery are ok…just enjoy your burger.

  21. joe

    You are all crazy. This is one of the best commercials ever!! It’s comedy. Get over yourselves.

  22. Francesco

    This is a brilliant funny commercial and at the same time it’s endearing… I really don’t get all those naysayers that as usual have to turn this commercial in to a castigating conservative RANT intent on nullifying something funny and cute…. I have 2 kids same age and they certainly didn’t come away with the notion that lying for the sake of obtaining ANYTHING will be condoned… And saw it for what it is…
    Naysayers get your selves a life and a sense of humor

  23. Franz

    To those of you who hate the commercial, WHY ARE YOU WATCHING TV!? Don’t you know that essentially actors are lying? Isn’t it wrong to lie? On top of the lying, some actors are married but they keep kissing people who are not their spouse! Isn’t that adultery!? to have a problem with this commercial you should have a problem with all of television. Or would you rather pick and choose what you’ll judge people on? The commercial is NOT teaching anyone that lying is okay. It is a clever way to catch peoples attention and get them thinking. By seeing the commercial have you considered black mail to get ahead? If you feel your children have thought that far into it, simply tell them they are crazy if they think that will fly.

  24. Debbie B

    That commercial is sooooo funny! Don’t take it so seriously Steve.

  25. jan sharon

    Are the children and father related?

  26. Caroline Peyton

    I love Steak & Shake but using the sacred Allegri Miserere as a jingle is a huge blunder. I cannot understand what such a musical masterpiece has to do with a milkshake or a hamburger. What were you thinking? Are you trying to enlighten the general public to great music? Do you realize that piece was meant only to be heard in the Sistine Chapel where Michaelangelo broke his back painting the ceiling? I almost wish the young Mozart had not written that music down. Without his astute musical memory none of us would have been privileged to hear it. I find its misuse by your advertising department quite offensive. Caroline Peyton