Nine years ago, veteran restaurateur Rich Shellene ditched his management gig at a corporate restaurant chain and founded Rich’s Burgers-N-Grub in Salt Lake City. With the goal of offering “insanely good” burgers, the restaurant’s 32 hand- crafted selections are prepared with fresh, quality ingredients on artisan buns made from scratch. Located in the busy downtown area, the restaurant does a bustling lunch business, serving up to 200 meals between noon and 1:30 daily.
In 2015, Utah ranked as the best-performing state in the country for job growth and economic performance and Salt Lake City maintains one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. That’s great for job seekers, but not so great for small independent restaurants looking for talent. “Staffing is a huge issue here,” cited owner Rich Shellene. “We’ve seen an influx of big chains offering higher pay and better benefits.” He calls keeping up with growth “a nightmare” that leaves independents with the least qualified and least motivated employees.
New restaurant competition is also fierce. “Sadly, fast food independents with cafeteria lines are changing the game in downtown Salt Lake,” said Shellene. “They charge less, operate on lower margins and their food is ready to go. They’re teaching patrons that average food is OK and that all food should be drive-thru-fast no matter where you go.”
With the restaurant’s old cash register system, staff was hand writing orders and running them to the kitchen order wheel. As many as five kitchen employees could touch the same ticket, often missing modifiers like no onions or no mayo, causing errors and waste. “When food goes to the table and gets sent back, I lose cash, I throw out food and I’ve inconvenienced a customer. I can’t afford to do that,” noted Shellene.