Multiplication of promotions, tables d’hôte at lower prices and tight management going so far as to put an end to excessive decoration on the plate. At the start of the year already marked by closures, some restaurateurs are trying to find ways to keep their customers… and their livelihood.

The menu catches the imagination: bottles of wine priced at $22, which is equivalent to the price of a glass on the menu of several establishments, and a table d’hôte starting at $25, the current cost of several entries. By organizing its gourmet January event, the Restos DIX30 Group – owner of La Tomate Blanche, L’Aurochs Steakhouse-Salle à manger, L’Aurochs Steakhouse-Espace festif and Le Café du Théâtre Brasserie Française – found a way to fill its rooms to eat at this rather slow time of year when customers’ budgets are tighter than ever.

Although the Group has been organizing this event for 14 years, this year it takes on a slightly different meaning, recognizes Andréanne Caron-Labonté, director of organizational development and special projects. And rising food prices have forced her and her team members to be “imaginative.”

According to her, holding the event involving the four Brossard restaurants was more than necessary if the company wanted to fill its tables and keep its employees working. ” We do not have a choice. If we want people to come to our restaurants and indulge themselves, we have to make magic. »

Remember that the new year began on a difficult note for several restaurateurs who had to end their activities, such as La Brasserie T!, Beaufort bistro, Dinette nationale and Don Nopal, in particular.

Declining traffic, rising food costs and the inability to repay emergency aid granted by the federal government during the pandemic by January 18 are forcing some restaurateurs to make difficult choices that could go as far as ‘upon the definitive closure of their establishment. Can we expect a massacre in 2024? It’s difficult to say at the moment, says Martin Vézina, vice-president of public and government affairs at the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ). He nevertheless recognizes that several closures are to be expected.

Aware of the current fragility of her industry, Ms. Caron-Labonté affirms that the January gourmand outfit was expected by customers. “We couldn’t not do it. People are looking for low prices. It was essential for us to offer them this this year. »

Developing a three-course menu at $25, then another with four courses at $45 and $55 without skimping on the foie gras, all accompanied by a selection of wines at half price, nevertheless gave them more trouble than usual, she confides.

“We had to work hard with our chef and our suppliers to find the most profitable foods for us. We are eating into our margin. It’s definitely smaller. »

Other companies like Groupe St-Hubert and Les enfants terribles also intend to whet consumers’ appetites with promotions. Already last fall, the famous rotisserie increased its offerings and brought back to the fore its dishes composed of thighs, breasts and fries, often less expensive.

“The challenge is to evolve the menu to respond to a broader clientele without cutting back on quality or portions,” declared Richard Scofield, president and CEO of Groupe St-Hubert, in a statement at the end of December. interview given to the online magazine HRImag. “That’s why I’m trying to expand the offering so that there is more choice, to meet needs; for example, highlighting less expensive plates without misleading the customer. We have to make sure that our dishes are well formulated, that we are able to explain what we are offering to our customers without losing our classics and our culinary identity. »

In the six establishments of Les Enfants Terribles, owner Francine Brûlé also intends to do certain promotions. “We are going to offer 5 to 7, lower prices after 9 p.m., we are going to work hard on our lunch tables so that they are more accessible. » The big difficulty with developing these special menus? “There are no more, low prices,” she says bluntly. Everything costs us more. »

Despite the crisis that has shaken the restaurant industry since the start of the pandemic, the businesswoman sees the future in a positive light… provided she is a good manager, even if it means cutting out the frills.

“It’s management down to the smallest detail. I eat in my restaurants and sometimes I take photos. At some point, they will put a bunch of sprouts just for decoration, she illustrates. There is no room for that. We are tight, tight. We can’t add another gram. If I use ten sprouts, will my dish really be more beautiful than if I use four? » The main interested party doubts it. “It’s small details. »