Thursday, July 10, 2014

Consumer Reports releases new fast food survey

I'm aware that a lot of BizMojo Idaho readers cannot resist any story that is about fast food, so today I am posting this link to Consumer Reports and its story rating the nation's fast food chains.

This is the first survey Consumer Reports has published since August 2011, and is based on the responses of 53,745 readers, who rated food, value, staff, and speed at 65 chains. As was the case three years ago, Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and Taco Bell all took a drubbing, posting the lowest scores.

The good news for folks who like to dine out here -- and who doesn't? -- is that some of the top-scoring chains have an eastern Idaho presence, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and Papa Muphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza in particular. Others are on their way: Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Firehouse Subs (which announced last year it was planning 12 locations in southern Idaho, including one in Idaho Falls, but seems to be moving slower than expected), not to mention Noodles & Company.

Take a look at the chart above and once you stop salivating ask yourselves which of these chains you'd like to see here. In-N-Out? Don't hold your breath, but take a look at The Habit Burger Grill, which beat it out. There are three in Utah, so maybe you want to check them out next time you're headed south to visit The Temple.

Happy eating, everybody! Watch your waistlines.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Investigation Discovery filming show about Paul Ezra Rhodes murders

If I seem a little distracted and erratic today, it's because I am going to be interviewed by Investigation Discovery, which is doing a show about the Paul Ezra Rhodes case of 1987 and the effect it had on eastern Idaho. Because I was in the Post Register newsroom at the time, my name was given to the show's producers, who are in town today.

I wasn't on the police beat at the time, I was assistant city editor. I had gotten married the year before, and Karen and I had just bought our first house, on Ninth Street. It was a freaky time.

Having reviewed the material the producers sent me ahead of time, especially the interview with Deputy Victor Rodriguez, the lead investigator for the Sheriff's Department, I can say this was a watershed moment for Idaho Falls. There had been homicides before, but nothing that engendered fear the way Rhodes' crimes did those few weeks in February and March.

Talking about this the other day with Mel Brown of Mel's Lock and Key, he told me their business went through the roof when Rhodes was on his spree. "We went from doing one or two houses a week to doing 10 or 20," he said. I find it interesting, however, and perhaps ironic that as soon as Rhodes was taken into custody business returned pretty much to normal. I know it's not possible to live at a constant fever pitch of fear, but I sometimes wonder if we're any more alert or vigilant than we were then

Anyway, I'll share more with you after this is done. It promises to be interesting.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Broadway Ford eyes early November opening for new dealership

Construction is moving along at Broadway Ford's new dealership on West Broadway. (Photo courtesy Dennis Sutton)
With steel going up, the owners of Broadway Ford are hoping to have their new dealership on West Broadway open by Nov. 1. Things are happening faster than expected, which is fine with the sales and service people at the 30-year-old dealership, said Ann-Michelle Jones, social media and e-commerce director.

Broadway Ford first opened in 1984. Owner Mont Crnkovich and his management team had been talking for several years about a new showroom and service department, with a more efficient layout out and up-to-date amenities. The new facility will be 46,737 square feet, including an 8,196 square foot showroom and a parts and service department of 21,429 square feet. The building permit valuation from city of Idaho Falls is $4.8 million.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Holiday Pay

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us! I am sure I am not alone in trying to stay focused on work today and not on all of the fun, food, and fireworks that are in the very near future.

Does this mean an extra day off for the week? Sure does! Does this also mean that if I were employed with ABC Company that I may not be paid for my Friday off during my fun-filled holiday weekend since the office was closed for the holiday? Unfortunately it does.

I think we can all be realistic in saying that when the workplace closes for an observed holiday, regardless of the time off from work being paid or unpaid, there are very few employees that will complain about having an extra day off from work, especially if it creates a three day-weekend.

However, as personal budgets have tightened over the years and today’s employees try to make every dollar count, one day off unpaid from work doesn’t exactly make employees want to high-five their boss when returning to work after a holiday closing. Employees count on the fact that if the business is closed for an observed holiday they in turn should be paid by their employer to cover their time away from work. Holiday pay has become a pretty commonplace policy for businesses of all sizes. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management in 2009, 97 percent of employers paid holidays to their full-time employees.

Does this mean an employer has to offer holiday pay? The the Fair Labor Standards Act says no. As a business you are not required, at least by federal law, to offer holiday pay.

Of course if your business is a 24/7 operation and someone has to be on staff at all times this doesn’t mean because it may be an observed holiday by the company and others are off – you do not have to pay the employees working on the observed holiday. Regardless of observed holiday status or not, if an employee is working on an “observed” company holiday they have to be paid in accordance to the Fair Labor Standards Act. In fact it’s typical to see businesses actually offer incentive holiday pay for those willing to work on observed holidays (think double pay or time-and-a-half for these people sacrificing their hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks so their co-workers can enjoy their holiday.)

I were to give you any great Independence Day advice it would be that offering holiday pay will help dissipate any workplace fireworks that may be set off by trying to save a few dollars wages. Trust me when I say if you don’t pay your employees holiday pay for observed holidays there are likely to be discussions among your employees about how financially frugal your business is.

Since federal law does not dictate what an employer does or doesn’t have to pay in regards to holiday pay, businesses have the opportunity and flexibility to create a holiday pay policy that works for them and their employees. Employers are able to determine eligibility requirements (probationary status, full-time/part-time), what holidays are observed, what happens if a holiday falls on a weekend, exclusions for holiday pay (bonus, commissions, etc), shifts required to be worked before/after the holiday, and other specifics. Of course all of these have to be uniformly implemented and maintained by management, but I can promise you it’s not that hard.

Also, another great unknown benefit about holiday pay for employers (not so much for employees looking for some extra holiday cash) is any holiday pay paid to employees cannot be counted towards overtime calculations.

Holiday pay is an inexpensive way to show employees a business cares by offering employees time off with pay to enjoy the holiday celebrating with family and friends. Businesses that fail to see the value in offering this benefit to employees more than likely will see a parade of employees walking out the door – signing their individual "Declaration of Independence" letters on their way out.

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Local Market Monitor offers lackluster forecast for Idaho Falls

A section from the May 31, 2014, report by Local Market Monitor.
Idaho Falls home prices are forecast to increase by 1 percent over the next 12 months, according to a report by Local Market Monitor, a company in Cary, N.C., that keeps track of fundamentals in 300 markets across the United States.

Over the next three years, prices are anticipated to go up 7 percent, said the company's latest report, dated May 31.

"Economic growth has been erratic since the recession. Growth was poor in the past year, with jobs weak in government, healthcare and the big retail sector. Expect erratic growth the next few years," the report said.

At the county level, the forecast was not any more robust. Bonneville County home prices were pegged to rise 0.7 percent in the coming year, 2.3 percent the next year and 4.2 percent the next. In Jefferson County, the forecast was for 1 percent growth, rising to 2.6 percent then 4.4 percent.
Nationally, prices are forecast to increase by 7.7 percent.

"There was a modest housing boom and bust, but home prices have been flat in recent years," the report said. "Rents are very low. Population growth has been average. Job growth and low unemployment will increase housing demand, but mainly for rentals. Expect a weak housing market the next few years. ... The market is currently underpriced, -12 percent relative to income."

At the heart of any healthy economy is job growth. "Jobs in the market have grown by 0.4 percent," the Local Market Monitor report said. "This compares to a national increase of 1.7 percent."
Population in the market grew 0.9 percent, compared to 0.7 percent for the United States. In 2012, population migration was -0.1 percent.

The report forecast rents in the Idaho Falls market to increase 11 percent over the next three years, to an average of $837 a month.

Total housing permits in April this year were down 9 percent from last year, and single family permits were down 14 percent.