Cache Valley restaurants struggle
to stay open in hard times
February 19, 2009 | LOGAN -- Empty chairs, wide open
spaces, no hustle, no bustle; a restaurant owners' worst
nightmare. But it's been this way for local restaurants
for months now, and bills are piling up.
Joaquin Huerta owns and operates Mi Ranchito de Logan,
on the south end of town, just entering Providence.
He says that they are holding on, for now.
"The business just left," says Huerta. "There's no
money and I am about three months behind on my payments
for the building. I don't know what's going to happen."
The restaurant boasts authentic Mexican food, and
by the looks of it, they have the expertise to make
it. The menu is in Spanish and there are about 20 or
so pictures on the wall to help those that don't speak
Spanish to know what they are ordering.
The restaurant opened in May 2008, said Huerta. He
is a native of Mexico and has been here for just a couple
of years. The average meal costs about $8, he said.
"When we opened, we didn't have enough space. There
were so many people that came to eat," said Huerta.
Because of an impressive start, Huerta said he took
an aggressive marketing approach and tried to expand
his building and reach out to a broader clientele. There
are loans, assistance and training through governmental
organizations, he said. For more information see Small Business Administration.
"But it all changed starting in November," he said.
He has had to lay off his entire staff and now runs
the restaurant as a strictly family operation. Huerta,
his wife and his two daughters are the only workers
"There's no work, so we don't really need workers,"
The economy isn't just affecting the newly started
restaurants, or the restaurants that cater to a family
audience. Callaway's, in Smithfield, has been serving
Cache Valley for years, and is just now hitting record
There was a sharp drop in sales several months ago,
said Michelle Howell, manager.
"Nine months ago, we were desperate for help," said
Howell. "But sales have been lousy since about November."
They are trying to combat the struggling business
but it's difficult because the cost of food is also
on the rise, said Howell. However, in order to cut back
on costs, they stopped all delivery services, started
a daily special for $7.95, and cut back the hours of
all the workers, she said.
"There are less hours for everyone," said Howell.
"Like tonight, we have had two customers and sold less
In order to stay afloat, the restaurant needs to pull
in about $2,000 worth of sales on the weekend and less
than half of that on a week night, said Howell.
"We're not in ultra-panic yet," she said. "But this
is the worst I have seen it in my seven years here.
It just gives me a pit in my stomach."
Callaway's owners are in Park City trying to open
a new location and hope to earn enough money to pull
the store in Smithfield out of the hole, said Howell.
"We're fighting to keep the doors open," she said.
Callaway's is an upper-end restaurant that has dinner
prices of around $15. They serve pizza, pasta and steaks.
It is elegantly designed with wood paneled walls, and
many private booths. To see pictures of the restaurant
or view the menu, click here.
Local restaurants that are faster and less expensive
are being affected also. The Royal Express is snuggled
in between a hair-care store and a karate dojo. It would
almost be easy to miss if it weren't for the fragrance
of egg rolls, General Tsao's Chicken, and all of the
other delectable dishes that wavers through the air
in the strip mall's parking lot.
Tony Wang, the son of the owner, tries to stay positive
about business and is looking forward to when sales
pick up a bit.
"It's not getting any worse," said Wang. "We've kind
of flat-lined in our sales, but they are definitely
People are buying less, there are fewer customers
and they use more coupons, said Wang. But instead of
trying to cut back, they are attempting to increase
the quality of the food to attract more customers and
to set themselves apart from their competition, said
They are also a family business and had to let all
of the workers go except one to stay in business, said
"Last year we sold about 30 or 40 percent more than
we do now," said Wang. "Now we're just trying to keep
our necks above water."
To see more on how the economy is effecting businesses
nationwide, and for economic forecasts go to the freakonomics blog, hosted by
The New York Times.