With reservations canceled, empty tables and plummeting turnover, restaurants are feeling the fear of Quebecers in the face of the coronavirus.
“Usually it’s full and I have people waiting [à l’extérieur] “Breathes with discouragement the owner of L’Avenue, on Notre-Dame Street in Montreal, Joseph Hayeck.
Yesterday morning, only a third of the tables welcomed customers, while the popular restaurant serving brunch frequently attracts crowds ready to queue even in the middle of winter.
There is nothing unique about her situation. Large restaurant chains such as St-Hubert, Pacini and La Cage have all reported Newspaper a marked drop in ridership on Friday evening.
40 to 60% decrease
“It was nothing like a normal Friday,” said Pacini vice president of operations Isabelle Gamache.
Sportscene Group President Jean Bédard notes that La Cage breweries in Montreal have seen declines reaching 40% of sales. Restaurants across the province saw their clientele shrink, he said, but the drop was worse in Montreal than in the region.
Establishments had empty tables, and supper time ended earlier, he noted, adding that the cancellation of all sporting events also has a negative impact.
Owner of several bars and restaurants in the metropolis, Peter Sergakis deplores an “excessively drastic” fall in income, of up to 60%.
Two months of survival
After a difficult Friday evening, the co-owner of Villa Armando in Mont-Royal, Marie-Josée Boilard, was counting on Saturday evening service to recover.
“I was hoping to have a good evening, I had close to 40 reservations. But there are only four people left who have not canceled, “she said in disappointment.
Then, yesterday’s announcement from the Legault government urging people aged 70 and over to stay at home was “another blow” for this restaurateur.
“With two months [comme ça], it’s over, “she feared, after 15 years of success. She believes that the entire restaurant industry needs help to get through the current COVID-19 crisis.
For the moment, no restaurant contacted yesterday talks about temporary layoffs, preferring to wait to learn about the business assistance measures promised by the provincial government.
“People have to readjust. We are witnessing extreme behavior, ”argues Jean Bédard.
Increase in deliveries
Both La Cage and St-Hubert noted an increase in deliveries at the same time.
But for the Sumac restaurant in Montreal, for example, an increase in take-out orders did not prevent sales from falling by at least 30% on Friday evening, according to owner David Bloom.
“The hour is serious,” said chef Jérôme Ferrer in a plea on his Facebook page. He called on Quebeckers not to abandon restaurants and to have meals delivered to them.
Exceptional measures, assure the owners
Worried about being abandoned by their customers, restaurateurs assure that exceptional hygiene measures are in place to protect them.
St-Hubert director of communications, Josée Vaillancourt, points out that no establishment will accommodate more than 250 people, including employees.
Children’s toys are removed from playrooms, and wax crayons are thrown away after use, among other things.
Everything is disinfected
Tables, chairs, benches, menus, payment terminals, everything touched by a customer is then disinfected.
Same observation in the restaurants of the Sportscene group.
At Pacini, the bread bar has been redesigned for the pandemic. It is therefore a waiter who brings the customer his choice of bread and spread, as well as a cooking utensil.
So customers don’t touch anything else, says vice president of operations, Isabelle Gamache.
Several restaurants also say they have removed tables to leave more space between customers.
Nothing on the tables
On the Avenue side, everything has been removed from the tables.
So there are no place mats, utensils or glasses. The cover is only installed when a customer sits down.
“It’s on demand,” says owner Joseph Hayeck of the milk and sugar packets for coffees and other condiments.
“We want people to keep coming,” said Marie-Josée Boilard, of Villa Armando, in her turn, on the efforts made to ensure the safety and sanitation of the premises.
♦ In France, the government has closed restaurants outright to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a situation feared by Quebec restaurateurs.
Despite the economic repercussions that a temporary closure would have, the owner of a small restaurant in Montreal invites her colleagues to follow suit and to voluntarily close the store as early as next week.
“It is up to us, the restaurant owners, to take responsibility for our customers and for our staff,” says Vanya Filipovic, owner of Vin Mon Lapin restaurant.
As of Tuesday, La Petite-Patrie will close for an indefinite period. Other restaurants, like Joe Beef, plan to do the same, she says.
Despite the major financial impacts expected, Mme Filipovic believes this is the right thing to do.
“My decision was really difficult to make, because I have the well-being of my employees, of my little restaurant at heart. It’s a stressful situation. If the government imposed a national closure on everyone, I think we would all be relieved, “she said.
-With Geneviève Pettersen