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Catering | Christmas parties without excess



The parties office and Christmas meals can indeed take place this year, but they risk being done under the sign of frugality, without excess of champagne and caviar, maintain restaurateurs interviewed by The Press.

“There was still a lot of spending during the holidays this summer. In the fall, the budgetary reality catches up with us,” recalls David Dupuis, head of the undergraduate program in economics at the Université de Sherbrooke. “There, we already hear that the emergencies are at full capacity”, he underlines, recalling that the shadow of COVID-19 still hovers. “Add to that the rise in interest rates and the risk of recession. It’s a perfect trio for a little frugality as the holidays approach. »

After more than two years of abstinence, where holiday gatherings had become a distant memory, the opportunity for restaurateurs to experience a more lucrative December finally seemed within reach.

However, if the reservations for the parties office hours started early this year, or even into the summer, economic uncertainty and the still very present COVID-19 have dampened the spirits of revelers and could have an impact on the celebrations and the number of bottles of wine that diners will order, worry restaurateurs who don’t know what to expect.


Marc-André Jetté, chef and owner of Hoogan and Beaufort

“After two years of the pandemic, people were looking forward to the party Office. But here, I have noticed for a few weeks that they are a little on the brakes instead of wanting to spend and splurge,” says Marc-André Jetté, chef and owner of Hoogan and Beaufort, which also offers a catering service.

Many customers get quotes for catering and then don’t get back to them.

I see a lot of undecided people. They wait before making a decision and booking. It shakes in the handle, as we say in good Quebec. We sail in the fog. In 2018 and 2019, at this time of year, we already had a good reading of what November and December would be like.

Marc-André Jetté, chef and owner of Hoogan and Beaufort

“I may be wrong, but I don’t see a big boom coming,” adds the restaurateur. People keep the purse strings tied or wait until the last minute. He says some co-worker celebrations might end up being a box lunch at home or smaller, simpler gatherings on office premises or at the factory.

In Lanaudière, Matthieu Bonneau, owner of the bistro Le Coup Monté, which has an establishment in L’Assomption and another in Repentigny, also observes the same phenomenon. However, his phone started ringing in August for reservations of parties Office. And several evenings are sold out… but there is still room in certain time slots.

“I still notice a slowdown. I don’t know what to expect [pour les partys de bureau]. Are people going to give themselves this little pleasure this year or are they going to be reasonable? »

Rue Saint-Denis, Martin Guimond, owner of the Saint-Bock brewery, believes that “this does not bode well” for the holiday season. The few reservations he wrote down in his “notebook” a few weeks ago have all been canceled, for no specific reason.


Martin Guimond, owner of the Saint-Bock brewery

Before, people would arrive and it was almost open bar for the parties of Christmas. There, I am asked more if there are specials, promotions, because people have a budget to respect.

Martin Guimond, owner of the Saint-Bock brewery

“I understand, consumers have choices to make,” he says. They will support their family and pay their rent before going to the restaurant. »

At the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), we are still confident that business will be good in December in the dining rooms. “We expect the holiday season to be relatively good,” believes Martin Vézina, vice-president, public affairs, of the ARQ. Other restaurateurs such as La Cage-Brasserie sportive are planning a good Christmas period.

Difficult month of October and apprehensions for 2023

Mr. Vézina recognizes, however, that there has been a lull in recent weeks in terms of attendance. Although October is not known to be the busiest month for restaurants, the slowdown this year is already greater than in 2019, notes Matthieu Bonneau. Its bookings are down 30% from the same period three years ago.

Right now, on weekends, there are fewer people than there used to be. There is a little doubt in the air, everyone wants to be careful.

Matthieu Bonneau, owner of Le Coup Monté bistro

On the Saint-Bock side, sales have fallen by 48% since September.

Marc-André Jetté also claims to have seen the tide turn in October. “In September, we were ready to hire half of the city. In October, we really felt a change, fewer contracts. Curiously, we received resumes like we never had since the beginning of the year, while the machine is no longer running at 100%. »

Moreover, the holiday season may be just a parenthesis for Martin Vézina. Once the gifts are unwrapped and the Christmas tree on the way, he expects difficult months in 2023. “People are going to tighten their belts. This was the case before, but with inflation and the specter of recession, we already feel that January and February, traditionally quiet months, are going to be even less busy. »

“I’m afraid of winter”, spontaneously launches Martin Guimond.

Price increase at the SAQ

With Christmas less than two months away, wine and spirits lovers will have to put more of their hands into their pockets when they shop at the SAQ. The state-owned company announced on Monday an average increase of 2.4% on the price of 1,458 products, from November 6. On the other hand, a reduction of 1.3% will be applied to 589 products. “The inflation that we have been experiencing for several months is affecting the majority of consumer products, and unfortunately, wines and spirits are no exception,” said Catherine Dagenais, President and Chief Executive Officer of the SAQ, by way of of press release. Could these increases dampen the ardor of consumers, many of whom go to stock up as the holidays approach? “It is too early to say whether these upward adjustments will have an impact on SAQ sales during this period,” spokesperson Geneviève Cormier replied in an email sent to The Press.

Nathalle Morissette, The Press

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