More than 800 restaurants closed permanently in Quebec last year

Almost one in five restaurants has been removed from the menu in Québec since the pandemic, more than 3,800 out of 22,730. In the past year alone, more than 839 restaurateurs have hung up their aprons, stuck by closures, staff shortages and skyrocketing food prices. The newspaper went to meet them.

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“I have a distraught restaurateur who just called me and said he had $200,000 in the bank before the pandemic and was stuck with $500,000 in debt because he wasn’t eligible for federal aid,” says Olivier Bourbeau, Vice President of Federal Affairs and Quebec, Restaurants Canada.

This story is far from unique. The last days, The newspaper spoke to many restaurant owners in shock. Check out the portraits below.

Cascade of closures

After two years of the pandemic, 2,428 full-service restaurants, 669 limited-service restaurants, 540 specialty restaurants and 29 bars have closed for a total of 3,666, according to the Association Restoration Québec (ARQ).

A number that could reach 3,800, according to Restaurants Canada, which notes that 13,000 addresses across the country have disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Hygiene measures, labor shortages, food prices… Restaurant owners have had to deal with a lot of headwinds.

“The breathlessness of the owners may stem from the fact that from February 2020 to February 2022 the price of groceries increased by 6.3%, compared to 5.2% for all goods,” analyzes Jöelle Noreau, chief economist at das Mouvement Desjardins.

“Many work with gas kitchens. However, we have seen an increase in energy prices,” she adds.

For Jean Lagueux, professor of urban and tourism studies at UQAM, restaurateurs need to control their market costs.

“We train a chef to cook. We don’t train chefs to manage,” explains the member of the Quebec Association for Training in Catering, Tourism and Hospitality.

“Perhaps in four or five years, studies will show us that those who closed had business models that were not adapted to their reality,” he says.

At ARQ, Vice-President Martin Vézina replies that “it was not the market that dictated the operating conditions, but the government that imposed the health restrictions”.

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