Tod Murphy – On the road to success?

Tod Murphy has taken a huge leap into the pool of dining.  He has stepped backwards and attempted to bring back the basics by supplying 60-70% of locally grown food.  Supporting local farmers is, what I believe, a very worthy cause.  Although this article was written four years ago, when I look at our economy now I cringe.  Something needs to be done to stimulate the economy.

I received a rather funny e-mail from my parents the other day.  It discussed the economic stimulus packet that taxpayers are going to receive this year.  The e-mail was arranged in a Q&A format, and was clearly against this proposed government issuance of money.  What really caught my attention was the end of the e-mail, which I have conveniently copied here:

“Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the US economy by spending your stimulus check wisely:

If you spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to China.

If you spend it on gasoline it will go to Hugo Chavez, the Arabs and Al Queda

If you purchase a computer it will go to Taiwan.

If you purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras,  Chile, and Guatemala.
If you buy a car it will go to Japan and Korea.
If you purchase prescription drugs it will go to India
If you purchase heroin it will go to the Taliban in Afghanistan
If you give it to a charitable cause, it will go to Nigeria.
And none of it will help the American economy.

We need to keep that money here in America. You can keep the money in America by spending it at yard sales, going to a baseball game, or spend it on prostitutes, beer (domestic ONLY), or  tattoos, since those are the only businesses still in the US.”

What I believe this e-mail left out was to also spend your money on local farming – – kind of what Tod Murphy did.  I am not sure of the status of his business today, but if it were to continue running it would help to stimulate our economy.  His reliance on local farmers instead of mass-produced and mass-shipped items has a remarkable amount of benefits.  He strengthened his community, committed to a good cause, and received a lot of good results.  This shows that local farming diners can have both nutritional, communal, and economical success.

While I support Murphy on his attempt to bring back the old and help out the locals, his overall mentality bothered me.  He claimed that his purpose was simply “to support nearby family farms,” but he turns around and has million dollar investors and thoughts of franchising.  A diner selling local food is not going to survive in many areas.  Cities are already out of question, but so are extreme climate areas, or places where land can’t even sustain growth.  There is a limited sector of our country that could actually establish these Farmers Diners.  Another major requirement for Murphy’s diner is a strong community.  Murphy was able to work deals to get his milk and produce shipped together, along with getting a 15-year old boy to raise his hogs.  A tight knit community is also needed to actually eat at the diner and support their fellow neighbors.  Lastly, these diners require a strong managerial staff.  Although I am against Murphy’s idea to franchise, even if this was a possibility he would need a clone of himself at every store in order for things to get accomplished.  As they article says, a Friendly’s manager has a job of filling out a form and making a phone call, and magically the shipment arrives.  It is a very structuralized and rational business.  In order to survive in Murphy’s market, he needs to make many phone calls, work deals, not to mention he started up his own slaughter house! The overall organizational structure of a Farmers Diner lacks clarity and uniformity; but these are hard to come by in this type of market.  I feel as though the success of his original venture lead him to the F word – franchise.  His initial views and values were quite pure and genuine, but were quickly overcome by the need and want for more (how American of him. ha!)   In my opinion, he is a small business owner just looking to make it big.  Whether his intentions are pure, or simply a quest for money, is unclear.  Personally I find him on a major quest to country-wide success, and the appreciation for farming goes along for the ride.

4 Responses

  1. The article your parents sent you is very interesting. It points out a true problem with the American economy, and one of the big reasons for our defeceit. I do, however, believe that it does not matter Murphy’s intentions. Starting a movement (even if for profits), that could benefit the economy, would be helpful. It would atleast bring awareness to the situation.

  2. F word is franchise!

    Very funny.

    Is he really selling out if he franchsies? What if that is best growth path to scaling up?

  3. I like the F-word comment. Also, I agree that it will be difficult for him to find a manager that has the same mindset and skill set too. Although this is probably very similar for most business owners looking to franchise or to take a few more days off of work a week, I feel Murphy’s situation is even hard because his business is so unique and based on personal relationships.

  4. I really enjoyed reading about your critique of Murphy’s seemingly contradictory business model-I hadn’t thought of his business from that point of view before. Even though he has very good intentions to revolutionize the food and dining industries, it seems as though he does have financial motivations at the back of his mind. Maybe his intentions are still pure and not financially driven, but with his sights set on franchising, it makes one wonder. It seems like we’re hard pressed to find a business motivated by anything other than money these days…

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