MONTREAL -- Quebec restaurant owners are eager to start serving clients in their dining rooms again, according to a recent survey by the Quebec Restaurant Association.

A majority of respondents – 72 per cent – said they want to reopen, even if they have to reduce their dining room capacity by 50 per cent.

Should they not be able to open soon, over 60 per cent say their establishments won’t last longer than six months, and 67 per cent express worries about being able to pay rent, suppliers and employees over the next few weeks.

In total, 39 per cent of respondents said they’d need to reopen at 75 per cent capacity to survive, whereas 22 per cent said 60 per cent capacity would suffice.

Once a capacity threshold has been identified to make a profit, 29 per cent think they will last between six months and a year, 22 per cent between three and six months, and 14 per cent less than 3 months. Only 27 per cent of restaurateurs say they would be able to continue operations past the one-year mark at reduced capacity. 

Nearly half of respondents – 48 per cent – put delivery and pick up services in place amid the pandemic, but for 76 per cent of them, those sales only generated up to 30 per cent of their usual profit.

To survive the health crisis, restaurant owners plan to redesign their businesses by offering take out items or delivery services. 

“Quebec restaurant managers are very worried and are living through an economic situation that is particularly difficult, that will persist for several months to come,” said François Meunier from the Quebec Restaurant Association. “In these circumstances, it’s necessary for businesses to have access to government aid.”

Many restaurant owners have used at least one, or in some cases, multiple aid measures from the federal and provincial governments. The most popular has been the Canada Emergency Business Account (a loan of $40,000), which has received applications from over 80 per cent of the survey’s respondents. The next most popular was the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which 46 per cent of respondents used. The least popular was the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for Small Businesses, which was used by around 15 per cent of respondents.

The survey was conducted online from May 6 to May 11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020.