Steak n Shake (NYSE:SNS) lost some of its sizzle after posting sluggish fiscal fourth-quarter results. Betrayed by its usually rabid following -- who flock to its bargain-priced eatery for steakburgers and shakes -- comps slid by 3.4% for the period.

Folks can get pretty loyal about their love for Steak n Shake. It's a dedication that you often see at privately held firms like White Castle, In-N-Out Burger, or Waffle House, which also specialize in thrifty fare. Sonic (NYSE:SONC) and CBRL's (NASDAQ:CBRL) Cracker Barrel may be similar temples of devotion on the publicly traded side.

So what did the company, which is rolling out its seasonal eggnog shakes this month, do to disappoint its shareholders? The company earned $0.27 a share for the period, or $0.29 a share before stock-based compensation charges. Wall Street was already expecting net income to dip to $0.27 a share, after a $0.31-a-share showing a year ago. But that slip in comps led to a mere 4% top-line advance, to $152 million. Analysts were expecting net revenues to inch 6% higher for the 12-week quarter.

The future won't get any brighter. The company is expecting comps to continue to struggle in fiscal 2007. Its projected range is anywhere from 1% to -3% for the year ahead, which finds Steak n Shake guiding profit expectations to between $0.90 and $1 a share. After earning $1.08 a share in fiscal 2005 and $1.00 in fiscal 2006, the company is likely heading toward a second consecutive down year, with its worst bottom-line showing since fiscal 2003.

You don't like it? You feel that Steak n Shake deserves better? Don't come crying to me. Head on over to a Steak n Shake near you for your Chili 5-Way fix, and wash it down with a chocolate mint shake. The eatery misses you, and it's going to have to win over diners in large amounts to get back on track again.

For more bastions of knowledge on the beef business, check out:

Rick is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Join David Gardner and his team as they scour the market's menu for the hottest, tastiest growth opportunities. You can sample their full menu of tempting selections with a free 30-day trial.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz lives a good 25-minute drive from his nearest Steak n Shake, but he's always willing to take on a few extra pounds for a good cause. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.