Restaurants in Quebec scrambling to hire back workers ahead of long-awaited reopening
MONTREAL -- Restaurants in Quebec are days away from finally being able to welcome people back for outdoor dining at the end of the month, but are now scrambling to hire staff and get their terrasses ready in time.
"We need a minute, let's put it that way. Many of us are just not going to be able to pivot that fast this time around," said Dyan Solomon, who runs three Montreal restaurants, including Olive and Gourmando.
"We are going to have every single restaurant in this city hiring 15, 20, 30 people at the same time and we're all vying for that little labour pool so it's going to be very challenging."
Quebec Premier François Legault announced the province’s reopening plan on Tuesday, which paved the way for restaurants to open terrasses on May 28, along with an end to the curfew.
People can't gather on terrasses with friends just yet. Each table is limited to a single family: it must have people from a single home or two adults from different addresses if their minor-age children are there.
Three days later, on May 31, restaurants will be allowed to open their indoor dining rooms, with restrictions.
The reopening is gradual, with bars being allowed to reopen their terrasses almost two weeks later, on June 11.
For people in Quebec’s service industry, it’s been the news they’ve been waiting for, but now they’re left with little time to prepare for next Friday, they said.
"Now we know a schedule, we know we can plan, we can finally see the light coming out of the tunnel," said Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, CEO of a Quebec association of bar owners and co-owner of La Chic Regal.
He said he’s confident staff will come back for patio season, but bigger bars might have a harder time beefing up their staff.
"I think it's going to be very problematic to get back employees that know how to run the business," Beauchamp said.
Thousands of employees are expected to be hired in Quebec over the next several weeks and already the owners at Montreal’s Burgundy Lion have been working the phones.
Co-owner Paul Desbaillets said he’s now trying to figure out which employees are coming back and which are leaving the industry all together.
Like most in the business, he’s cautiously optimistic. The last call at the English pub was back in September, when the shutdown at the time was expected to last 28 days. That turned into eight months.
Still, he said, it’s full steam ahead.
"We have been waiting a year and a half -- we will be ready to go," he said. "I will lie down as a plank of wood and somebody can sit on top of me; we are ready."
But hiring and training staff aren’t the only challenges facing the restaurant industry.
Solomon said she needs to rebuild his terrasses this year but supplies are on back-order and contractors are overbooked. She said she's hopeful she’ll make it happen but suspects some restaurants will need a little more time.