COVID Impact on Food Business in Montreal

Much like the entre service sector, the food business in Montreal has been hard hit by Covid-19. With governments urging people to stay at home and avoid social interactions, the food industry may be facing dire times ahead.

Why Is the Restaurant Industry Affected?

Social distancing measures and stay at home orders certainly have a role to play. Health Minister Christian Dube recently asked residents to avoid gatherings, including parties, barbeques, and dinners as cases in Quebec are soaring. The number of people that are allowed to join private gatherings has been reduced to ten. This means that the catering business is likely to face a drop in demand.

Restaurant staff is also afraid of contracting the virus and would rather stay home in hope for better days, benefiting from financial assistance under the federal support program. While this can help prevent spreading the virus, it also means that businesses face a shortage of workers. Some businesses are now offering delivery and take-out services while others temporarily closed.

What Restaurant Owners Say

A survey carried out by the Association Restauration Québec in early summer shows that some 61 percent of restaurant owners believe they can stay open for about 6 months if social distancing measures and restrictions continue to be enforced. Some businesses saw their customer base dwindle, including tourists and employees in office towers. Others say that reduced seating capacity is a major challenge.

An impact report published by Yelp is a point in question. The report shows that about 2/3 of U.S. businesses that closed temporarily amidst the pandemic chose to close permanently. The situation is more optimistic in Canada but the food business still faces some major problems. In Quebec, most dining establishments were allowed to reopen in July, and over 90 percent of survey participants confirm that they chose to reopen. At the same time, they are operating with reduced seating capacity of between 40 and 60 percent. About 8 percent of restaurants shut down temporarily because of low seating capacity. The good news is that nearly half of respondents have an optimistic outlook about what the future holds for them.

Recruiting staff is a major problem for some 57 percent of survey participants. This is mainly due to the fact that most people choose to stay home and receive weekly payments through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. For 10 percent of businesses, the fact that employees are required to wear goggles, masks, and other forms of PPE is what makes people reluctant to rejoin the workforce. Some 47 percent of participants share the opinion that more relaxed measures would be of help, like wearing visors only. Last but not least in importance, survey participants say they prefer to receive direct assistance instead of loan financing. They also voiced approval for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy and its extension, which now offers 75-percent wage subsidies to companies that have been impacted by the pandemic.

Government Support

In July, the federal government announced that the Emergency Wage Subsidy would be extended until December 19 to help non-profit and charitable organizations and businesses to rehire workers. So far over 3.7 million of Canadian employees have received financial support under the program. Recently, the government announced that the program can be extended until July 2021 to ensure that employers and employees benefit from much needed support. The subsidy has been complemented with the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy that has been recently voted to help business owners.

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Restaurants in Montreal

Montreal is a city of diversity and the home to a great variety of casual and upscale restaurants to have a quick bite or enjoy exclusive dining experience. Whether you are in the mood for a smoked meat sandwich or a more sophisticated meal, Montreal truly deserves its reputation as a food town.

Fine Dining

Restaurant Tandem offers Canadian, French, European, and fusion cuisine, tasty food choices, and a visual experience that guests enjoy. If you are a gourmet traveler, you will appreciate its creative menu and delicious offerings like Ramen style foie gras and homemade gnocchi with bolet foam. Restaurant Toqué! is another gourmand venue to enjoy a delightful dining experience and try excellent food. They offer a tasting menu of superior quality in the evening. Visitors can taste mind-blowing offerings such as veal carpaccio, gnocchi gratin with cream sauce and shiitake mushrooms, and roasted scallops with cauliflower puree. Other upscale restaurants to enjoy incredible food are Maison Boulud, Europea, Le Mousso, and Estiatorio Milos, which is the perfect choice if you are up for more exotic flavors.

Casual Dining

Montreal also offers tourists and locals a wide selection of casual restaurants to try a tasty meal. If you would rather skip expensive tasting menus, good places to visit in downtown are Venice MTL, Deville, and L’Gros Luxe. If you love burgers and American-style food, Deville is a spot not to miss. They offer these tasty tacos, lobster spaghetti, and steaks with bacon marmalade that are simply an invitation to feast. L’Gros Luxe is also a good choice for a fairly cheap meal, with options ranging from grilled cheese poutine and fish and chips to vegan grilled cheese and vegan nachos. Venice MTL also features tasty, fresh food offerings and inviting plates for a nice treat. Some of the must-orders to try are their cheeseburgers, guacamole, and lobster rolls. Other casual dining venues that locals frequent are Jukebox, Foiegwa, Terrasse Place D'armes, and Poke Bar.

Exotic Favors

Montreal is the home to a vast array of Mexican, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Lebanese, and Peruvian restaurants that feature delicious meals and exotic flavors. Yokato Yokabai is where locals flock for a superbly prepared ramen soup that is simply the best in town. Their menu is short and mainly includes soups that you can order with thin or thick noodles, a selection of toppings, or extra noodles. Le Red Tiger is another spot worth visiting if you love street food and Vietnamese cuisine. They feature both vegetarian and meat offerings such as spring rolls with pork sausage, vegetarian imperial rolls, and lemongrass beef skewers.

Locals love Portuguese food and if you do as well, Chez Doval is a must-visit restaurant that specializes in grilled fish and meat. Taste their whole grilled fish or Portuguese style chicken to find out why visitors keep coming back to this unpretentious but welcoming restaurant. Other venues that are worth mentioning and offer delicious food are Panama Rotisserie, Satay Brothers, and Le Super Qualité.

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