Can Montreal’s Meals Courts Survive? Time Out Market counts on it

Links to the breadcrumb trail

As CEO Didier Souillat says, Time Out has what it takes to weather the COVID-19 storm by spring.

Author of the article:

FREDERIC TOMESCO Nathalie Goudreau enjoys a small lunch with her daughters Simone (5) and Jeanne (8) at the Time Out Market in the Eaton Center in Montreal. Nathalie Goudreau enjoys a small lunch with her daughters Simone (5) and Jeanne (8) at the Time Out Market in the Eaton Center in Montreal. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Article content

Laurent Ruffier-Lanche had just ordered about 100 extra chairs and tables for his downtown grocery store when the pandemic broke out.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“You’re in the warehouse now, as you can imagine,” said Ruffier-Lanche, who runs Time Out Market’s Montreal office at the Eaton Center, in an interview late last month while he was on a tour of a reporter for the Montreal Gazette the premises gave. “One day we will bring them out.”

When that happens is a guess. After almost three months of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 40,000 square meter area of ​​Time Out was reopened for operation on July 8 – but in greatly reduced numbers. Instead of 16 food options, there are now six active concessionaires as well as a cooking school, a sales area and three bars.

Article content

In order to get the room ready, Time Out invested in security – with signage, hygiene stations, Plexiglas screens on bars, counters and tables as well as a contactless ordering system. All employees wear personal protective equipment.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

But will the measures taken by Time Out and other food courts in the city center be enough to ensure their long-term survival?

“We are kind of lucky to have this huge room with high ceilings and to let in fresh air regularly,” said Didier Souillat, Chief Executive Officer of Time Out Market in London in a telephone interview late last month. “At 40,000 square feet, social distancing is easier than at 2,000.”

Article content

When it comes to early signs, business has a way to recover. In a recent lunch break, about two dozen customers were scattered in a 390-seat room. When it opened in November, Time Out’s original 550-seat capacity often seemed insufficient to meet demand.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Laurent Ruffier-Lanche is the General Manager of the Time Out Market at the Eaton Center in Montreal. Laurent Ruffier-Lanche is the General Manager of the Time Out Market at the Eaton Center in Montreal. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Time Out isn’t the only company that invested in a new food concept shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic.

In January, Ivanhoé Cambridge, owner of Place Ville Marie, Le Cathcart, opened a 1,000-seat location that includes two cafes, three full-service restaurants, and nine food stalls – part of a $ 1 billion redesign of the venerable office complex. The opening followed that of Le Central, a food court with 25 restaurants in the Carré Saint-Laurent project on the corner of Ste-Catherine St. and St-Laurent Blvd.

Article content

Both rooms recently reopened with reduced seating – a reflection of the radio that hit downtown Montreal this summer.

No more than 5 percent of the estimated 300,000 office tower workers are back in the downtown area, said Michel Leblanc, chief executive officer of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, late last month. Some restaurants in the area that would normally serve 300 meals a day now have just eight meals, he said.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“You can’t escape the fact that it won’t be good for business if people stop commuting, if people stop traveling, if people stop going to the office,” said Souillat. “We’re happy to be open, but basically we need tourists to come back and people to come back to the offices.”

Walmart Canada’s President Haio Barbeito, in a presentation to the Canadian Retail Council in July, predicted that it will take at least two years for foodservice sales to recover. As teleworking grows in popularity, more and more people will be eating home-style cooking at the expense of eating, he said.

“It will take a while” for things to improve, Souillat said. “That’s why we gradually stomp our tenants back in. The cake is just that big. You can’t divide it by 18. At the moment every week looks a little better. “

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

COVID-19 is forcing food service companies to “thoroughly examine their concepts,” said Francine Rodier, professor of marketing strategy at the Université du Québec à Montréal, in a telephone interview. “If you have to rely on office tower blocks for business, you will suffer. You have to get creative. “

Last week, Time Out began offering home delivery to reinvigorate sales through a deal with DoorDash.

“We never wanted people with helmets and bags to come through our food halls,” said Souillat. “That wasn’t part of our business plan. We want people to come and enjoy the food, but we have to adapt. Our experience simply shows that companies have to react fairly quickly. “

Souillat says Time Out has what it takes to weather the COVID-19 storm into spring.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“I am urging that we limit the damage by the end of this winter and hope – of course I am optimistic – that we will be back in full swing from April next year,” he said. “When the cake gets a little bigger and the tenants are ready to come back, we will welcome them again. We have been here a long time. We have been here for at least 10 years. “

[email protected]

  1. Hubert Marsolais, second from left, and Claude Pelletier, fifth from left, have convened the chefs at their Le Club Chasse et Pêche, Le Filet and Le Serpent restaurants to prepare some of their favorite take-away dishes in the Chasse kitchen.  The chefs include Philippe Boisvert (left), Lambert Vincent, Masami Waki, Michele Mercuri, Patrick Mastropaolo, Denis Lessard and Olivier Larocque.

    Brownstein: High-end Montreal restaurants have take-away with a twist

  2. Carlos Gomez, left, Olivier Vigneault and Antonio Park cook at Akio Cantina in Le Cathcart, Montreal's newest food hall.

    Food Hall Monitor: How Do Montreal’s New Marketplaces Compare?

Notice to readers: We know the speed and volume of coronavirus news is overwhelming and a little scary. To help with this, our daily live blog synthesizes the top coronavirus-related news, particularly those related to life in Montreal and Quebec. Follow the updates for July 30th here.
You can always find all of our coronavirus-related news at montrealgazette.com/tag/coronavirus.
Sign up for our local COVID-19 reporting email newsletter at montrealgazette.com/coronavirusnews.
Help support our local journalism by subscribing to the Montreal Gazette here.

Share this article on your social network

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

By clicking the registration button, you agree to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Remarks

Postmedia advocates a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their thoughts on our articles. It can take up to an hour for comments to be moderated before they appear on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have turned on email notifications. You will now receive an email when you’ve received a reply to your comment, there’s an update on a comment thread you’re following, or when a user follows a comment. Check out our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to customize your email settings.

Comments are closed.