Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Steak and Shady

I apologize in advance for publishing a picture-less entry post, but I'm frustrated with, and very concerned, for my beloved Steak and Shake. If it weren't for some pretty powerful nostalgia, I probably wouldn't give a damn about the place, but I grew up sipping shakes and slamming burgers while listening to the oldies station play at this pseudo 50's style diner. Later in life, I would sip the same shakes, nosh the same burgers, and listen to the same oldies, but at three in the morning (occasionally consuming whole hot peppers right out of the bottle). So, to see it go downhill greatly saddens me.

Apparently the economy hasn't been kind to S&S, because instead of just selling overpriced hamburgers, they are now straight swindling people out of their money. I first noticed this when they launched their "4 meals for under 4 dollars" campaign. I ordered a "meal" and asked if I could substitute a shake for the soda that comes with the meal (expecting a surcharge, of course). I was informed that "drinks do not come with the meal, just the sandwich and fries." I ordered water instead. At the time, this struck me as odd, but I didn't give it much thought, except that every other fast food joint includes a drink in their meals. Is S&S in such dire straights that they can't afford to throw in a drink which costs less than ten cents? While technically, this isn't swindling, it's misleading at best.

The second incident took place about a month ago, and I very nearly blogged about it, but I thought it would be petty to blog about 27¢. I went to S&S one afternoon to take advantage of their new "happy hour" deal (another sign) which is half price shakes on weekdays from 2-4pm. I ordered my favorite fruit and yogurt raspberry shake, and was informed that they no longer carry yogurt shakes. Disappointed, I ordered a cookie dough shake, which was $3.49 on the menu. As I waited in the drive-thru I began to calculate the final price and tax, which should have been roughly $1.92. Instead, my bill was $2.19. When I questioned the drive-thru attendant about the price, he insisted that the shake was $3.99 on the menu. I began to doubt myself and paid the higher price, but circled the building to double check the menu. Sure enough, I had been correct, but I was too frustrated and hungry to go fight for my 27¢. This is the shadiest I've ever seen S&S. I was cheated, but still didn't learn my lesson.

Today, I was SO hungry after getting off work, that I decided to stop by for a quick single. Again, I went through the drive through, and before I could order I was informed that "Fries now come with all of our sandwiches if you want them." The price of a single steakburger is $2.29. I ordered it with everything on it, along with the complementary fries. The order rang up to $2.79, which is $3.07 after tax - a 50¢ upcharge. I immediately questioned the price increase, and was informed that "Oh, the fries are just a little bit more. Do you still want them?" I told the attendant that I did not want the fries (I should left, but I was REALLY hungry), and that I felt the whole deal was very dishonest. It could have been that she misread her cue card, but I'm pretty sure it's a subtle scam. Either way, I left with my $2.29 single steakburger, disgusted.

Which brings me to S&S's rapid decline in quality. First, it was the elimination of the fruit and yogurt shakes. Admittedly, they were probably very costly to make - they did have real fruit, albeit frozen, but were still delicious (and maybe a bit less bad for you than a regular milkshake). And the new cookie dough shakes - they're powder. The cookie "dough" is powder. It was the most disgusting imitation cookie product I've ever have the misfortune to put in my mouth, and there was no longer a cherry on top (no big loss there). Furthermore, the ice cream had a very thin mouthfeel, like it was made entirely of skim milk. It didn't even hold a candle to the hand-dipped milkshakes of the past.

The burger I choked down today was, hands down, the worst sandwich I've ever eaten at S&S. It was smashed flat - about an inch tall, had no lettuce, and no tomato, despite the fact that I ordered it with everything. The onions were of the McDonald's-ish minced variety instead of slices, and neon green Chicago style relish now resides where the famed pair of long-cut sandwich pickles used to sit. A very disappointing sandwich indeed.

I guess it's hard to compete with the dollar menu. People just can't afford S&S anymore. Hell, I couldn't afford it when the economy wasn't in the tank. If S&S survives, they have some serious restructuring to do. Hopefully, they can return to their former glory, but they won't do it by swindling people. Eventually, people are going to take notice, and people like me hold grudges.

Note: S&S is a franchise, so this may not be the case in all locations. These incidents all occurred at the S&S on Big Hollow Rd. in Peoria, IL.


Jen said...

Is it bad that, while I understand your plight (VERY frustrating), the best part for me was the title? "Steak and Shady" -- hilarious. :)

Galnar said...

The one on Big Hollow is worse than the one out by the new mall. I've noticed the switch to relish everywhere, though. It's disappointing, being a fellow Fulton County native, S&S was always considered fine dining. :p