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Before before, dinner time?

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“For New Yorkers, 6pm is the new 8pm,” wrote the New York Times this month, about rush hour in Big Apple restaurants. Are the Montrealers following the same trend? Some yes. And they are reconnecting with a very Québec tradition: that of having dinner early.

Posted at 6:00

Catherine Handfield

Catherine Handfield
The print

Stuart Lachovsky, vice president of sales and strategic partnership at Libro, a Quebec-based reservation management platform, confirms that the 18-hectare time slot has also been the wind in Quebec’s sails since the pandemic. “Between 2019 and 2022, in Quebec, the number of bookings at 6pm increased by 56%,” says Lachovsky.

The number of bookings has also increased for the other time slots, because people are more likely to book than before (“during COVID it was an obligation and we still do it”), but the increase is less marked (around 30 %) at other times, says Stuart Lachovsky. “It looks like 6:30 pm is early evening in restaurants in Montreal, “he says.

Mr. Lachovsky attributes this to habits formed during the pandemic … but also to labor shortages. Due to a lack of staff, restaurants are forced to close their kitchens earlier, sometimes as early as 8pm or 9pm, he says. Other restaurants have changed formula and now offer two services: one around 18:00, the other around 20:30.

At the Express, on rue Saint-Denis, the crowd is more constant today than it was before the pandemic, notes co-owner Mario Brossoit. The truce the team observed between 2pm and 7pm is a thing of the past, he said. “Afternoons never end … and evenings start in the afternoon”, explains Mr. Brossoit, who also sees it as a consequence of teleworking and self-employment.

At Tapeo, in Villeray, the owners observe a slowdown for the last service, at 21, and perhaps greater enthusiasm for the very first, at 17: 30-18: 00. On the way from The print, at 5:30 pm, Paul Farrington and Rose Villano had just ordered their tapas. “We always ate early,” says Paul, who sees this as a very typical Quebec habit. “I realize there are even fewer people around us,” says Rose.

Why should people have dinner earlier today? Perhaps, after the pandemic, “they prioritize sleep and give their bodies a few hours to digest before bed, do intermittent fasting, or swap cocktails for low or no-alcohol drinks,” the reporter wrote. New York Times.

The pandemic – a major social upheaval – has changed many of our behaviors, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it also affected our restaurant habits, estimates Roxane de la Sablonnière, a professor in the University’s psychology department. Montreal. “We worked a lot more from home and maybe we want to have dinner earlier, to have time to relax later,” she says. The question is will it stay? ”

At the Vin mon Lapin restaurant in Little Italy, after a pandemic truce, the night owls are back in strength, assures co-owner Vanya Filipovic. “Last night at 9:45 pm the restaurant was full,” she said.

In Quebec, you eat early

When we look at the history of Quebec, in working-class families, we “ate early,” sums up Myriam Wojcik, historical head of the series. Kebec, in Tele-Quebec. The rush hour obviously varies according to the type of restaurant, but this habit of going out to eat at 7 or 8 pm in the most gourmet restaurants seems recent to him.

The custom of having dinner at 5pm comes to us from the British, he says. “While, for the French, the midday meal is very important, for the British it is the evening meal,” says Ms.myself Wojcik. Since the British are “sorteux”, it is also under their influence that the inns multiplied in the nineteenth century.And century. It was also in this century that the first good restaurants appeared in hotels.

And in the first decades of the twentiethAnd century, it was obviously snacks that were popular. They were popping up like mushrooms in the popular neighborhoods.

“Great gastronomy was not part of Quebec traditions,” says Myriam Wojcik, whose father, Henry Wojcik, is also a pioneer of Quebec gastronomy. In 1967 she opened Fado, which would later become Fadeau, one of the largest restaurants in the province. Her father and her peers worked hard, she says, to convince clients that this “ephemeral pleasure” was worth the money.

“It becomes an experience to be in a restaurant, to eat well, in a pleasant environment with the people you love. And this is recent in our culture ”, concludes Myriam Wojcik.

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