Steak 'n Shake Veterans Day Controversy

A Facebook user claimed his local Steak 'n Shake didn't participate in a chain-wide Veterans Day promotion, but the location's owner said several veterans were treated to breakfast.

Published Nov 13, 2015

[green-label]NEWS:[/green-label] On 11 November 2015, Facebook user Anthony Giunta III published the following status update regarding his visit that day to the Millersville, Maryland Steak 'n Shake:

I decided to take my family to Steak and Shake this morning in hopes that we would run in to some Veterans to thank. Instead when we arrived the place was empty and I soon found out why. I witnessed a Veteran being told that this Steak and Shake (the only one in Maryland) is not participating in the Veterans offer below. This is the owner, Pakistani born Khalil Ahmad. When I asked the waitress why she had to turn away that Veteran, her response was "That's the owner, why do you think" We left disgusted, and we are never going back. I have seen too many Veterans fight and sacrifice for this country, only to have Mr. Ahmad take advantage of our freedom, and then do this.

Please spread this like Wildfire. I am not done and I hope everyone will help me show him what a mistake this was today.

Late on 11 November 2015, Giunta updated on Facebook to indicate his claim "made the papers," linking to a 12 November 2015 Capital Gazette article titled "Steak 'n Shake management says misunderstanding causes lapse in Veterans Day promotion." In that article, the Millersville Steak n' Shake's owner and manager clarified that most veterans were served a free breakfast (and that some employees initially were unaware of the promotion):

Reached by phone Wednesday, Ahmad said the restaurant had participated in the promotion. But the restaurant's general manager later said one or two people who requested the breakfast earlier Wednesday morning were denied.

General manager Hassan Mushabar said some employees had not been aware of the promotion early Wednesday morning, and that the store's manager was not at the restaurant during the time.

The restaurant did serve around a dozen free breakfasts to veterans, Mushabar said. Those veterans who were refused will be reimbursed for their meals, he said.

Khalil and Mushabar's accounts directly conflicted with Giunta's assertion (that a server was aware of the promotion and directly prohibited by Khalil from extending it),  and both confirmed most veterans received a free breakfast prior to widespread circulation of Giunta's post. Moreover, the article included previous comments from Khalil about his emigration to the United States:

Ahmad appeared to have been upset by the incident. The restaurant frequently gives discounts to military service members and well as police and firefighters, he said.

When Ahmad first came to the United States from Pakistan in 1998, he had only $32 to his name, Ahmad told the Maryland Gazette shortly before the restaurant opened in June.

He recalled working nearly around the clock between jobs at two Glen Burnie gas stations, saving money as he went.

"This is the best country in the world," he said in a previous interview.

While it's likely Giunta's account was truthful (in that a diner did not receive a free Steak 'n Shake breakfast on 11 November 2015), subsequent extension of the promotion (during breakfast hours) at that location occurred prior to social media backlash created by the Facebook post. As such, Khalil's assertion that the incident was a misunderstanding on the part of waitstaff made more sense than an inference he prohibited servers from offering free breakfasts to veterans. Giunta was the only individual to come forward with the claim, and Khalil pledged to reimburse anyone denied access to the promotion.


Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.