Earlier than before, dinner time?

Earlier than before, dinner time?

“For New Yorkers, 6 pm is the new 8 pm,” wrote the New York Times this month, about the rush hour in restaurants in the Big Apple. Are Montrealers following the same trend? Some do. And they are rediscovering a very Quebecois tradition: dining early.

Posted at 6:00 am

Catherine Handfield

Catherine Handfield

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

The number of reservations has also increased for other time slots, because people are more likely to book than before (“during COVID, it was a must and we continue to do it”), but the increase is less marked (around 30%) at other times, says Stuart Lachovsky. “It seems that 6:30 pm is the prime time in restaurants in Montreal,” he says.

Mr. Lachovsky attributes this to habits formed during the pandemic… but also to labor shortages. Due to staff shortages, restaurants are forced to close their kitchens earlier, sometimes as late as 8 or 9 p.m., he says. Other restaurants have changed their formula and now offer two services: one around 6 pm, the other around 8:30 pm

At the Express, rue Saint-Denis, the crowd is more constant today than it was before the pandemic, says co-owner Mario Brossoit. The calm that the team observed between 2 pm and 7 pm is a thing of the past, he said. “Evenings never end… and nights start in the afternoon”, illustrates Mr. Brossoit, who also sees it as a consequence of telecommuting and self-employment.

In Tapeo, in Villeray, the owners observe a slowdown in the last service, at 9:00 p.m., and perhaps more enthusiasm in the first, at 5:30-6:00 p.m. on the way of PressAt 5:30 p.m., Paul Farrington and Rose Villano had just ordered their tapas. “We always ate early,” says Paul, who sees this as a very Quebecois habit. “I also appreciate that there are fewer people around us,” says Rose.

Why would people eat dinner earlier today? Perhaps, since the pandemic, they “prioritize sleep and give their body a few hours to digest before bed, go on intermittent fasts, or swap cocktails for low- or non-alcoholic appetizers,” food journalist Rachel Sugar wrote in the blog post. New York Times.

The pandemic – a great social convulsion – has changed many of our behaviors, and it would not be surprising if it also influenced our habits in the restaurant, estimates Roxane de la Sablonnière, professor in the psychology department at the University of Barcelona. Montréal. “We work from home a lot more and maybe we want to eat dinner earlier so we have time to relax afterwards,” she says. The question is: will he stay? »

At Vin mon Lapin restaurant in Little Italy, after a pandemic hiatus, night owls are back in force, says co-owner Vanya Filipovic. “Last night, between 9:45 and 10 pm, the restaurant was packed,” she said.

In Quebec, we eat early

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

The custom of eating dinner at 5 pm comes from the British, he says. “While for the French the midday meal is very important, for the British it is dinner,” says Ms.me Wojcik. As the English are “sorteux”, it is also under their influence that the taverns multiplied, in the 19th century.me century. It was also during this century that the first good hotel restaurants appeared.

And in the first decades of the 20thme century, of course it was the sandwiches that were popular. They sprouted like mushrooms in the working-class 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 contemporaries worked hard, she says, to convince customers that this “ephemeral pleasure” was worth spending.

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

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