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 prices for food and fewer employees caused him to turn to the internet to look for help.
“We used to answer the phones all the time — within two rings, that phone was answered," said Murphy. "Now, we can’t even answer the phones during the day.”
In his search, Murphy found an automated self-order machine on YouTube.
Murphy installed two of these self-order machines in his Riverton cafe, known for their Philly cheesesteaks.
“They are a really big help, especially during our busy hours," he said.
It's a click-it-yourself menu and register that helps during busy hours and on days like Black Friday, where Murphy and his chef are the only employees working.
“I’ve had three interviews this week, and none of them showed up," said Murphy.
Murphy has increased employee wages, yet finding workers has still been nearly impossible during the pandemic economic environment.
"I’m finding people that call and say, 'I only want to work during this time,'" he said. "I tell them I’ll be flexible and they still won’t show up.”
The pressure from the labor shortage is not the only challenge Murphy is facing — food prices have increased.
“I looked at the sales in 2019, and 40 pounds of wings used to cost me $107. It is now $146," he said.
The economy has stretched the new restaurant owner thin after a promising start.
Murphy opened his cafe in 2019 and said the first year was one of encouraging growth — so much so that he planned to open six other locations.
“The most exciting thing is watching the customers face when they eat the food," he said.
Murphy has always loved cooking for others — something he did on the side while he was a mortgage broker.
It wasn't until a few years ago that he decided to create a restaurant, which he now says he would not do again during the pandemic economic climate.
"I find myself asking, 'Is it even worth it?'" Murphy wrote in a post on the cafe's Facebook page. "I am not one to give up. I did not start Murphy's to end it just because things get difficult. We will adjust."
For Murphy, his cafe is more than just a place to get food.
"It's also about the lives we touch, the impact we have on you, our community, friends, and family," he wrote in the post.