The Montreal restaurant scene seems to have been shaken, could it be the recent opening of L’Atelier Montréal de Joël Robuchon at the Casino de Montreal that is getting their goat. Giusseppe Valiante of Canadian Press wrote a piece that appeared over the weekend in various papers regarding not only the sheer number of restaurants in the city, but who can open one.
According to the article Montreal has one of the highest per-capita ratios in North America when it comes to restaurants and this is troubling to some who see good restaurants (i.e. their’s) being lost in the shuffle. This has more than a few folks considerably irked including David McMillan, co-owner of Montreal’s Joe Beef . “I can’t decide tomorrow to practise plumbing, to practise amateur electricity. In Montreal you can apply for a restaurant permit and get it immediately — that’s a problem for me.” Of course getting a permit does not in any way guarantee a successful establishment.
Not a very free market approach you might say. Well, his confrere in the gastronomy business Carlos Ferreira was even more direct: “I don’t believe in the free market anymore, We have to protect the good restaurants.” Eatery protectionism? I assume by “good” restaurants he means those he deems to be acceptable, including no doubt his own.
Let me be straight, I am no restaurant critic nor chef. Although I do make a mean toast and peanut butter and can poach eggs with the best of them. What I find odd is that at a time when there is much debate over the Uber ride service coming along and taking work from registered taxi drivers, many people are saying they should lift the regulation on the taxi industry. Let the chips fall where they may, in other words a free market. (The other side of the coin is to banish Uber but that is easier said than done.) Yet here we have successful restaurateurs calling on the government to limit the number of restaurant permits it issues. More regulation, not less.
If they are concerned about maintaining the “good” restaurants, then surely any “bad” restaurants will not be around for very long. Don’t businesses function on a sort of Darwinian model? Those that succeed stay, those that fail close up and get reopened as something else.