Steak n Shake (NYSE:SNS) burger addicts like me have reason to cheer this week. No, I'm not talking about a new menu item that significantly ups the already off-the-chart cholesterol count of the company's culinary fare. This week, our bellies were warmed by news that an investor group has acquired a substantial stake in the burger chain.

HBK makes a move
The investment group, led by HBK Investments LP, reported buying 2.7 million shares in Steak n Shake, equal to 9.5% of the 28.5 million shares outstanding. The shares were purchased between April 30 and May 22. HBK is one of the world's largest hedge fund managers, with more than $13 billion in equity capital.

The SEC filing sounds very friendly. It explains that the investment group intends to "engage in discussions with management ... with regard to strategies and potential transactions to maximize shareholder value, including potentially exploring an acquisition or other transaction."

It goes on to state the investment group does not intend to seek Board representation or engage in a transaction not supported by the Board -- very friendly indeed. Of course, once those "discussions" get under way, the gloves have a way of coming off.

A good target?
Some hedge funds make their money by identifying underperforming companies that have intrinsic value which can be unlocked. In retail or restaurant companies, that usually means a good brand that's lost its way. Steak n Shake fits that description to a T. The company has reported seven consecutive quarters of negative comp sales. A glance at last year's annual report reveals a management team with a pretty muddled strategic plan to revive the business.

On the other hand, the company fills an interesting niche in the fast-food market -- big, greasy, and unusually tasty burgers. Its fries are skinny, crisp, and tantalizing. The major players like McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Burger King (NYSE:BKC), and Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) all seem to be headed towards healthier fare. What's wrong with indulging from time to time? I don't see Steak n Shake growing into the next burger megachain. But with a loyal core of customers and an interesting niche product offering, there could well be some value to be found here.

Hedge funds have had some notable success in righting the ship at floundering retail chains, since they can bring clear strategic focus and superior management to the table. Earlier this month, Back Yard Burgers (NASDAQ:BYBI) announced that it's going the private-equity route. HBK appears to believe it can work some magic at Steak n Shake. I look forward to seeing the group make a go of it. All burgers are not created equal.

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Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte surveys the retail scene from Dallas. He welcomes comments on his articles, but doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy has real meat to it.