SAVING. Labor shortages hit restaurants in downtown Drummondville hard. Faced with a shortage of employees, owners must redouble their efforts to meet the high demand from customers. To avoid fatigue, some have decided to shorten their opening hours or close their doors temporarily for the construction holidays.
Co-owner of Les Garnements restaurant Hugo Leclerc agreed to meet Express, Thursday afternoon, just after dinner. “We can sit on the terrace for an interview. I rarely use this space. I often go to the kitchen,” he laughs.
At the helm of Garnements, Hugo Leclerc’s days are busy. The restaurant is like a second home to him. The Drummondville resident puts his heart and soul into his work, as does his partner Jennifer Goudreau.
The two work complementing each other while one stands behind the stove; the other is behind the bar. They are surrounded by about fifteen people. “We are a small team. Our employees work five days a week, at lunchtime and in the evening. If there is someone who cannot enter, he will appear, but we always manage,” supports Hugo Leclerc.
Les Garnements have decided to close their doors for a week, from July 31st to August 8th. Hugo Leclerc has been in the restaurant business for 16 years and for the first time allowed himself to take a vacation in the summer.
“The restaurant rarely closes in the summer,” he notes. I proposed to Jennifer on a whim. We thought about it for a month and decided to go ahead. Since the opening of Les Garnements two and a half years ago, we have hardly stopped. We are tired. Our employees work hard. We thought we could give them this gift.”
More clients than ever. Last Thursday, a total of 230 customers were served in five hours, emphasizes Hugo Leclerc. “If we had stopped at numbers, we would have continued. We made this decision for us. We need to recharge our batteries,” he added.
Owners often work 16 or sometimes 18 hours a day. “We are not a network that receives its cargo and everything is ready. Everything is home here. Jennifer makes cocktails and makes wine lists. It takes time. We will serve five hours a day, but it takes about ten hours to prepare. There’s a lot of work behind the plates.”
Looba without a chef. Since the person in charge has left, the owners, Sylvie Nadeau and Stéphane Giguere, are preparing the dishes. Despite their recruiting efforts, they were unable to find a replacement. “There is a shortage of qualified personnel. It is becoming less and less common to meet people who want to work and want to study,” says Stefan Zhiger.
Responsibilities accumulate on the side of the restorers. “We will take care of the cleaning, paperwork and kitchen,” Sylvie Nadeau lists. In the morning we are in the restaurant, and in the evening we help the staff in the bar.
Restaurant opening hours changed from Thursday to Sunday. “We wanted to focus on our strong days. The goal is to provide good service. If we reduce hours of operation, we will have more employees. It’s hard to find people who want to work on Wednesdays. They see it as less profitable,” emphasizes Stéphane Zhiger.
Closing on Wednesdays, owners will be able to complete pending tasks such as creating a new menu, showcasing a list of gins, and scheduling shows for the fall.
In solution mode
Julie Arel, co-owner of La Muse, for her part, has noticed that his appeal is declining in the restaurant industry. For his part, he used several strategies to recruit the staff he lacked at the beginning of the summer. “In the spring I worked very hard. I made big signs. We walked with him all over the boulevards and rented 1000 dollars. I needed two chefs. I really thought about closing half of my restaurant for the summer. We finally managed to find it, ”emphasizes the one who has about thirty employees.
La Muse restaurant is open seven days a week, and for this Julie Harel had to make some sacrifices by stopping the catering service and reducing the offer of dishes on the menu to make the work of the chefs easier.
The latter mentions that the labor shortage is affecting all downtown restaurants and has consequences. For example, Nambu and To good your closed their doors during the construction holidays. Bistro de la gare has also decided to no longer offer Express Lunches. The service will return in the week of August 9th.
In addition, Julia Harel adds that she wants restaurateurs to get support to get through the crisis. “We have to enter decision mode. The city center is the heart of the city. I would like the city to help us with this, and the Drummondville Corporation for Economic Development (SDED) will take care of us. We should organize a job fair in the city center,” she concludes.