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Steak 'n Shake

The Steak 'n Shake restaurant, at 4002 Montana Sapphire Drive near Shiloh Crossing, has closed. The owner felt the never-profitable diner lacked community support.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

A new Burger King is opening this summer in the former Steak ‘n’ Shake building in the Montana Sapphire development at Billings’ western edge.

Ogden, Utah-based Meridian Restaurants, which owns five Burger Kings in Billings and Lockwood, is spending $750,000 to remodel the former Steak ‘n’ Shake at 4002 Montana Sapphire Dr., which closed last July, according to a Billings city building permit.

The new Burger King would join a growing fast food and quick-service restaurant alley at Montana Sapphire and the Shiloh Crossing subdivision across the street. Others include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s, Popeyes, Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Subway.

Ryan Harper, a business analyst for Meridian, said Billings has been a good market since the management firm bought stores here in 2014. Meridian owns 18 Burger King restaurants in Montana and 87 regionwide.

“Our next goal, now that we’re established in the areas, would be to grow out those areas,” said Harper, whose father, David Harper, owns Meridian.

Harper said he expects the new store will employ 30 to 50 people.

The western edge of Billings is the only part of town where Meridian doesn’t operate a Burger King. Another store on Grand Avenue is owned by Denny Rehberg, a former Montana congressman who also owns two Popeyes chicken restaurants in Billings.

The 3,500-square-foot space at Montana Sapphire was built specifically for Steak ‘n’ Shake in December 2013. The franchise owner, Spencer Erwin, said he struggled with high employee turnover, long waits for food and bad customer reviews before closing the diner-style restaurant.

County appraisers valued the building and land at $1.3 million. According to Franchise Direct, opening a new Burger King costs between $1.4 million and $2.9 million, depending on construction costs and other fees. 

Burger King is owned by publicly traded Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Popeyes and Tim Horton’s. The Canadian firm operates 23,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries.