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Boise Pizza Pie Cafe franchise closing after 7.5 years, not enough workers

Roger Lindsay planned to open a second location leading into March 2020, but the owner has struggled to hire employees since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise 'Pizza Pie Cafe' franchise on Broadway Avenue will call it quits Saturday after more than seven years of business.

"It just kept getting harder and harder until the beginning of October. We could no longer be open for lunch because we didn't have enough people to do that," franchise owner Roger Lindsay said.

The business is staffed primarily by family. However, they should have an employee roster of around 35 people, according to Lindsay. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Lindsay struggled to hire new employees.

"We had a two-year gap. We essentially didn't hire any new daytime help for two years," Lindsay said. "Over last two years, [current staff] slowly moved on to careers and other things. It's what we expect, but we also expect to replace those [employees]."

Lack of staff is the primary factor behind the restaurant’s closure. Lindsay received an occasional application; however, candidates would not show up to the interview.

"These days it just seems to be more and more about the money and not having a good flexible place to work," General Manager Oran Lindsay said.

The restaurant roughly doubled their pay through COVID. Current entry wages are up to $14 an hour – plus tips – in an effort to attract workers.

"To be honest, at that rate, it's hard to make money. Our labor costs have gone way up and so have our food costs. We had to raise prices multiple times," Roger Lindsay said.

The worker shortage has been an ongoing problem for Idaho businesses since the start of the pandemic. Idaho's latest unemployment rate is at 2.8% during the month of September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Idaho's unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to Boise State University Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics Dr. Rafael Ribas. However, Idaho's labor force participation rate (LFP) currently sits at 62.7%, according to BLS. Pre-pandemic levels were closer to 64.5%, according to Dr. Ribas.

This change of 1.8% results in roughly 20,000 workers missing from Idaho's labor market, according to Dr. Ribas.

"Also, many workers have worked fewer hours," Dr. Ribas wrote KTVB in an email. "Another reason is that young workers used the COVID period to improve their education and skills. So they don’t want to apply for low-skilled positions anymore."

Pizza Pie Cafe is open through Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant will open at 2 p.m. Saturday and close for the final time at 9:30 p.m.

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