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A barista working in Montreal. Right: rue Crescent with its many restaurants.

A barista working in Montreal. Right: rue Crescent with its many restaurants.

Quebec's restaurant industry has gone through some changes since COVID-19 entered the province, and even Montreal's best restaurants are feeling the strain. As labour shortages got worse in the past few years, restauranteurs have begun to incentivize workers to join the dwindling ranks, according to the Association restauration Québec's vice president of public and government affairs, Martin Vézina.

More restaurants are providing group insurance to their employees, for one, Vézina explained in an email to MTL Blog. "Also, many managers offer meals during shifts and provide food for employees to take home at minimal or no cost," he wrote. Free food and access to healthcare are pretty sweet, but restaurants are also thinking long-term.

Vézina said it's becoming increasingly common for retirement plans to be included in benefits packages, which he describes as a "new development."

These changes are happening in part due to a huge loss of workers, especially in the service industry: Vézina noted a shortage of 52,100 employees as compared to the restaurant and hospitality sectors. But this isn't exactly new, he says. "The labour shortage existed long before the pandemic," Vézina explained. "If anything, the pandemic exacerbated it by causing the industry to lose several career employees who were unwilling to wait months for the dining rooms to reopen."

Restaurants have responded by increasing wages — the average increased by approximately 15% between 2019 and 2021, Vézina wrote. Hours are changing, too — owners are moving away from Monday and Tuesday, in order to give workers their due days off.

Some places are even dropping their lunch services, since "they do not have enough people to provide a quality lunch experience," Vézina explained.

As COVID-19 restrictions are eased and these benefits become more standard throughout the industry, we can likely expect to see more — and better quality — opportunities for people to enter the restaurant industry, even as it struggles to regain footing in the pandemic era.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

    Willa Holt
    Staff Writer
    Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog focused on apartments for rent and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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