Sysco is a major food distributor around Montreal and other metropolises around the world.
Since March, the food industry has been adapting to government protocols pertaining to hours of operation and whether or not dining rooms are permitted to stay open.
This has led to changes in the way that customers buy and consume food and beverages.
Dubois offered insight into what this means going forward.
Answers have been edited for clarity.
What main trends in consumption have you noticed since the start of the pandemic, particularly in Quebec?
Support Local: Consumers are more and more conscious of their environmental footprint when making food purchasing decisions and are willing to pay extra to support local, much like Sysco’s recent campaigninviting Quebecers "to support local restaurateurs."
The rise of "insperiences": Cooking fatigue is setting in and recreating at-home restaurant experiences is a thing now, by ordering combo/family meals from local restaurants.
Prioritizing sustainable takeout containers: At the onset of the pandemic, businesses had to turn to quick solutions for takeout containers and sustainable options were put on the back burner. Now, with the new laws coming up in 2021, restaurateurs are thinking ahead and testing sustainable options.
Convenient Takeout: Visiting restaurants' social media platforms before placing orders has become the norm now for Quebecers. Ordering online directly on restaurants' websites has also increased.
Renaissance of QR Codes: QR codes have provided contactless options to quickly access menus, place orders, pay the bills, etc.
How has supply/demand in the food industry shifted since the beginning of the pandemic?
On the restaurant's side, we have noticed an increase in the "Ghost kitchen" concept (i.e. a delivery-only restaurant). This concept helps cut the costs and increase profits by selling grocery-type items (sauce, frozen dishes, etc.).
Since pick-up/takeout and delivery are mandatory to stay in business, third-party delivery services have expanded their territories to be able to service more remote locations. We're also seeing an increase in in-house delivery services to avoid third-party delivery fees.
Experts are predicting that in 2021, two different food profiles will be trending: Comfort food with modern and global cuisine inspired twists and providing healthier options.
Sysco Grand Montreal reported that 33% of their sales team saw higher demand for fruits & vegetables during the pandemic. This aligns with Quebecers' needs for healthier eating and for functional foods that provide benefits and nutrients we need during a pandemic.
What effect do you think Quebec's curfew has on the province's restaurant industry?
Allowing restaurants to continue delivering food and alcohol after curfew can help, but most restaurants still have to use third-party delivery services, which can severely affect their bottom-line profits.
Many restaurants rely on foot traffic and are experiencing a big hit with this curfew. Restaurants are also experiencing a lot of food waste — Restaurateurs have had to throw out enormous quantities of food.
The ongoing shortage of staffing is also a big issue since the beginning of the pandemic.
Boucherie Slovenia, a boulevard Saint-Laurent institution for 50 years, will soon serve its last spicy sausage.
The iconic home of enormous Eastern European-style sandwiches — Slovenian sausage and towering cold-cuts were staples — will close its doors forever on January 29, said the owners, Lourdes Rodrigues and Jean Teixeira, in a Facebook post.
"Thank you to all our loyal customers, for the wonderful years," they said.
With a menu overflowing with huge, yet affordable, meat and mustard sandwiches — sauerkraut, pickles and Cherry Cokes were also standard — Boucherie Slovenia is the latest of the Main's iconic old-school institutions to close.
The beloved Moishes steakhouse announced its closure under the strain of the pandemic in the summer of 2020.
The Boucherie Slovenia Facebook post asks readers to share their memories of the restaurant and butcher shop, with many offering childhood stories of visiting for a pepperette sandwich or their "underrated" smoked meat, which is "the best in the city," according to one commenter.
Many apparent long-time customers said they wouldn't know where to go to find dishes comparable to Boucherie Slovenia's treasured menu items.
Others remarked on how yet another classic Montreal restaurant is closing its doors. "Nothing replaces these fantastic old shops," said one person. "It's a loss. The rich character of the boulevard is disappearing."
Montreal is certainly no stranger to a traffic jam, which makes taking public transit a more viable option to not only get around faster but do more good for the environment.
As Canadian cities take the initiative to improve their transit systems and reduce their carbon footprints, Montreal has become one of the country's greenest metropolitan areas when it comes to transport, according to one ranking.
A December report from Kijiji Autos analyzed green transport options in Canada's most populated cities, evaluating their use of electric cars, bikes, scooters, and the number of electric charging stations.
With its metro and bus systems, BIXI rentals, bike lanes, and availability of electric cars, Montreal found itself in third place among Canadian cities that offer the greenest transport with a score of 5.5/10.
Although Vancouver and Ottawa/Gatineau snagged the top two spots, Montreal takes the lead as the most bicycle-friendly city in all of North America, with a total of 2,163 bicycle paths, says the Copenhagenize Index.
Montreal's third-place ranking is encouraging news, said McGill University Assistant Professor of Geography, Grant McKenzie, who specifically boasted about Montreal's metro system, "especially compared to other Canadian cities," as well as its "substantial investment towards electric buses."
While McKenzie said "we can always do better" and bemoaned the city's ban on e-scooters, he called the popularity of the BIXI and the inclusion of electric bikes in its fleet an "excellent move in the right direction."
As for electric cars, Kijiji Autos looked at new registrations of electric vehicles in the first quarter of 2021, as well as total charging stations. Montreal landed second to Toronto with a total of 3,633 new registered electric cars, and 1,258 electric charging stations throughout the city.
Kijiji Autos also looked at the number of hybrids and electric vehicles for sale on their platform. Montreal led the way with 1,063 hybrid vehicles and 375 electric vehicles, states the report.
With the province of Quebec offering residents a rebate for the purchase or lease of electric cars, Quebec estimates that there will be 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.
The announcement that Quebec would start requiring vaccine passports at SAQ and SQDC locations has sparked conversations around access to legal pot and booze in the province.
Quebecers can actually order alcohol and cannabis from the Société des alcools du Québec and Société québécoise du cannabis and get it delivered right to their doorstep. Added bonuses? No waiting in line, no venturing out in the cold weather, no chance of encountering potentially aggressive crowds and a significantly lower chance of catching or spreading COVID-19.
How do I order SAQ and SQDC products for delivery?
For the SQDC, your order should arrive between one and three working days if you select standard delivery via Canada Post. However, there are also same-day express delivery options for several cities in the Greater Montreal area and the Quebec City/Mauricie region.
How much does it cost?
In addition to the cost of the products, SAQ delivery costs $12 per order.
Standard SQDC delivery is $5 per order, while same-day express delivery costs $9 per order.
Any special rules I should know about?
You have to be of legal age to purchase these products, which is 18 or older at the SAQ and 21 or older at the SQDC. You'll be asked to provide proof upon delivery.
Also, the maximum amount of cannabis you can buy at once is 30 grams.
Over the past year, two Quebecers, Florence-Olivia and Marie-Emmanuelle Genesse, started The.SisOfficial platform on both TikTok and Instagram, where they share information from their research on violence against women.
One of their TikTok videos, which showcased a hand gesture for individuals to use when they're experiencing violence at home, went viral and was shared with a caption saying, "This can save lives." And it turns out it did.
MTL Blog got the chance to speak with the creators of The.SisOffical platform on their background in research about violence against women and the importance of sharing different signals with the public. You can read our interview below.
What made you start The.SisOfficial account?
We started The.SisOfficial a bit more than a year ago, when Covid started and we were both at home because [our] school was now fully online. Flo is doing her Masters in Legal Philosophy (her area of research is sexual violence) at Johns Hopkins University and Emma is doing her Masters in Feminist Philosophy at Concordia University and her research focuses on domestic violence. We wanted to find a way to share our research with as many people as possible, but in a way that everyone would be able to understand and enjoy learning about these facts.
Sometimes, philosophy and research on violence against women can be difficult to understand, so we wanted to create a platform where people could go to get educated on these important issues, while not having to read hundreds of pages or research.
When we saw that some people were getting millions of views to dance on TikTok, we decided to combine our dance background (we danced semi-professionally for 18 years) with our research so that these millions of views could also help save lives and educate people.
We did not expect the platform to grow as much as it did, but we are so happy that our work can have an impact on women's lives. We have received many testimonies where young girls and women told us about their stories and that seeing our page has helped them in many ways.
We also receive messages from men saying they did not know they could be feminist as men and that we have helped them see that the word 'feminist' is not a bad word, but rather the basic notion that women should be treated as human too.
How did you learn about the hand signal? Why did you think it was important to share it?
As violence against women researchers, we are always on the lookout for signals, hand signs or new ways to incorporate in daily life safety tools to help women, so we were already aware of this hand signal for domestic abuse (which comes from the Canadian Women's Foundation).
For us, it is important to discuss violence against women as much as possible because it is very often taboo in society. To have a platform like we have with The.SisOfficial (350K followers on TikTok and almost 50K on Instagram) means that we have a duty to share these hand signals and safety tips for women, but also so that other people will recognize it and [be] able to help them, like with that happened in the US recently.
It was important for us to share it in a manner that was also like a real-life situation (we reenacted a FaceTime call) because since COVID-19, women are more than ever stuck at home with their abusers and FaceTimes are very often their only way to communicate with people outside their home.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.