DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Inflation is latest challenge South Salt Lake restaurant taking in stride.

May 12, 2022, 5:19 PM
mannequins...
Mannequins provide social distancing at the Inn at Little Washington as they prepare to reopen their restaurant Thursday May 14, 2020, in Washington, Va. The manager say that every other table will have mannequins for social distance guidance when, according to state guidelines, the 5-star restaurant will be allowed reopen on May 29th. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

SALT LAKE CITY — Inflation, COVID, supply-chain strain and a labor shortage collided with the American restaurant business. In Utah, 252 or 5% of restaurants have closed permanently, says the the Utah Restaurant Association. How did the others survive? 

KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Debbie chatted with Melissa Masten, the general manager of the Left Fork Grill at 68 W. 3900 South in South Salt Lake, to find out.

Dave recently paid $3.19 for a dozen eggs.

“That does it. I’m buying chickens, honey. Sorry to announce it right now that we’re getting chickens,” Dave announced on air to his wife.

Restaurant prices rising like an inflation soufflé

“We have to raise our prices every two to three months. . . . We have to print whole cases of new to-go menu,” Melissa said. “We just got new ones. Now we’re gonna raise our prices again.”

“Have you had supply-chain issues to the point where you’ve had to adjust the menu at all?” Debbie asked.

“Some things. I mean, we’ve had to change brands of things,” Melissa said. “Our customers, like I said, they’re so loyal. They know, like, [they say] ‘That’s not the same coffee you’ve been serving me before.'”

“Oh, I know I can tell the difference when somebody shifts the brand of coffee on me,” Debbie replied.

Cook wanted

“I know another thing that has really affected restaurants is staff,” Dave said. “What has that been like for you?”

“It’s been a struggle,” Melissa said, adding some servers left during the pandemic, and the kitchen is short-staffed. “It’s hard to get people that know what they’re doing in the kitchen, also.”

Servers depend on tips

“Have you had to increase your wages to entice people to apply?” Debbie asked.

Melissa said servers are paid $2.13 an hour and rely mostly on tips for their wages.

“Our prices are going up, and our tips are going down because people are paying so much more for what they’re getting. But then they don’t want to tip us that certain percentage, so we’re struggling,” she said.

Sorry, out of stock

Dave pointed out that eggs have tripled in price but restaurants can’t triple menu prices.

Melissa said the restaurant has to shift restaurant-supply companies due to lack of supply or charge “outrageous amounts” on the items they still can stock. Restaurant-supply stores are also limiting the food items that customers such as the Left Fork Grill can purchase.

Customers are the bright side

“Is there a silver lining? . . . Are you optimistic?” Dave asked.

“Oh, very optimistic,” she said.

“What is it that brings optimism to you?” he asked.

“It’s the customers, honestly. . . . They’re so happy to be here. I’m invested in their lives. They’re invested in our lives. . . . We’re a part of a community,” Melissa said.

The Left Fork Grill staff also survived the construction of apartment buildings around them. But the payoff hopefully will be all the new customers who come in to dine. 

Related:

US inflation hit 8.3% last month but slows from 40-year high

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Inflation is latest challenge South Salt Lake restaurant taking in stride.