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Steak 'n Shake has no time frame for reopening Portage and Michigan City restaurants

Steak 'n Shake has temporarily closed its restaurants in Portage and Michigan City.

Steak 'n Shake, the vintage diner chain that serves up steakburgers and hand-dipped milkshakes, temporarily closed its restaurants in Portage and Michigan City weeks ago in an unorthodox move but still has no timetable for when they will reopen.

"We have temporarily closed our Michigan City, Indiana, and Portage, Indiana, locations and they will reopen under new franchise ownership," Steak 'n Shake spokesman Jared McKinney said. "We do not have a reopen date to share at this time."

The restaurants are located at 5809 S. Franklin St., Michigan City and 6231 U.S. 6, Portage. Another, in Benton Harbor just north of the Michigan state line also closed.

The Indianapolis-based company has been struggling financially, losing $19 million in the first quarter and facing a lawsuit that puts it on the hook for $7.7 million owed to managers and their lawyers for making them work unpaid overtime. Steak 'n Shake, known for slogans like "In Sight It Must Be Right," "It's a Meal," and "Takhomasak,shuttered 44 locations nationwide last month, hoping to find a new franchisee to run them.

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Steak 'n Shake is now offering the chance to operate company-owned restaurants for a franchise fee of $10,000 on its website. For context, Pizza Hut and Domino's charge franchise fees of $25,000, while Wendy's and Taco Bell ask franchisees for a $40,000 franchise fee. 

San Antonio-based parent company Biglari Holdings, which owns 626 Steak 'n Shake restaurants nationwide, lost $10.7 million last year after its revenue dropped by 3.9%. 

S&P Global Markets identified the largely Midwestern restaurant chain, which dates back 85 years and was beloved by the late film critic Roger Ebert, as one of the companies most likely to go bankrupt. The company has tried different approaches to remain relevant with modern diners in recent years, including $4 combos and new menu offerings like a white truffle double steakburger and Reese's peanut butter cup shakes.

Steak 'n Shake restaurants in Schererville, Merrillville and Valparaiso remain open, serving up burgers made with ground steak, shoestring fries and chili in a 1950s-esque atmosphere. 

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.