RIVERTON, Utah – Labor shortages have forced restaurant owners to get a little creative this year.
Daniel Murphy, the owner of Murphy’s Cafe in Riverton, said higher food prices and fewer employees caused him to turn to the internet for help.
“We used to answer the phone all the time – in two rings, that phone was picked up,” Murphy said. “Now we can’t even answer the phones during the day.”
In his research, Murphy found an automatic ordering machine on YouTube.
Murphy installed two of these do-it-yourself machines at his Riverton cafe, known for its Philly Cheese Steaks.
“They are a great help, especially during our rush hours,” he said.
It’s a one-click menu and register that helps during peak hours and days like Black Friday where Murphy and his boss are the only employees working.
“I had three interviews this week, and none of them showed up,” Murphy said.
Murphy raised employee wages, but finding workers has always been nearly impossible in the pandemic economic environment.
“I find people calling and saying, ‘I only want to work during this period,'” he said. “I tell them I’ll be flexible and they still won’t show up.”
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The pressure of the labor shortage isn’t the only challenge Murphy faces – food prices have gone up.
“I looked at sales in 2019, and 40 pounds of wings was costing me $ 107. It’s now $ 146,” he said.
The economy has put a strain on the restaurant’s new owner after a promising start.
Murphy opened his cafe in 2019 and said the first year has been encouraging growth – so much so that he plans to open six more locations.
“The most exciting thing is watching customers’ faces when they eat food,” he said.
Murphy always enjoyed cooking for others – something he did in parallel when he was a mortgage broker.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that he decided to start a restaurant, which he now says he wouldn’t do again during the pandemic economic climate.
“I wonder, ‘Is it even worth it? “” Murphy wrote in an article on the cafe’s Facebook page. “I’m not the type to give up. I didn’t start Murphy’s to end it just because things get tough. We’re going to adapt.”
For Murphy, his cafe is more than just a place to eat.
“It’s also about the lives we touch, the impact we have on you, our community, our friends and our family,” he wrote in the post.