NOTE-- This digression was moved from the Quebec board, in response to the question "any opinions on why it is so hard to maintain the quality of the product? Is it the responsability of the chef, or are there outside influences that play an equally important role?" at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38371... -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM
I worked in the restaurant/catering industry in MTL for nearly ten years, I now live and work in the US. First, no matter where you are it is a tough business: 1 out of 5 restaurants fail within the first 6 months of operation and 9 out of 10 are gone after 2 years. Look around and try to assess how many restaurants have been around for more than 2 years or are as good as they were originally...you'll see burger joints, Chinese/Viet dives and chain restaurants...
Margins are always low and the amount of effort required to keep a business afloat is truly grating and exhausting. In Montreal, the situation is compounded by a reluctance of the city to properly and fairly manage permits and sanitary conditions, so completely unsanitary and below standard dives are permitted to operate next to spotlessly clean and impeccably run operations these last are more expensive to run but compete for the same customers as the dives. Montreal although a big city has a huge number of restaurants per capita, there are simply too many for the actual size of the economy, and so, many go out of business/deteriorate very quickly so many in fact that no bank in MTL would ever give any amount of financing or even a credit card to a fledgling restaurant/caterer.
Finally, there are the large proportion of patrons who are not willing to pay for quality, I was once asked why my all you can eat menu was priced at $15.00 when a neighbouring Indian rathole restaurant had an all you can eat buffet for $9.99...I replied fresh, locally grown and organic produce, extra virgin olive oil, no cans, etc...I got a blank stare and a reply that that didn't matter. My margin was less than $1.00 per person...working 7 days a week, 18 hours a day...making a profit of $100/day....before paying myself and before Quebec/Canada income tax! I liquidated everything and changed careers...
That is why so many good restaurants don't last very long quality wise or just disappear.
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