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Pay what you want in this Montreal restaurant




Crescent St. tavern hard hit by drop in business tries something new

Feb 25, 2009 04:30 AM


Andrew Chung



MONTREAL – Already stung by a slide in American tourists and a deepening financial mess that's keeping business customers away, the Taverne Crescent, situated on one of Montreal's historic party streets, decided to implement a new policy: Pay what you can.


So yesterday, lunch-hour customers were given the choice of an appetizer, plus either tagliatelle bolognese, salmon or braised beef, and coffee or tea, for whatever they wanted to pay. For a dollar even. Or nothing.


"Some people might pay nothing," said owner George Pappas, "but maybe when they have more money in three or six months, they'll come back and pay more."


Desperate times call for desperate measures, it seems. Pappas's actions, though gimmicky, illustrate the darkening picture for all those attached to the tourism industry in the province.


Despite the proximity of major Canadian cities like Montreal to the border, the number of American tourists coming into Canada by car – still the vast majority compared to other means of transport – reached a record low last year, data from Statistics Canada show.


There were nearly 10 million of those trips in 2001. Last year, just 7.4 million. It wasn't even that bad during the last two recessions, including the oil shock of the 1970s.


Meanwhile, Americans are taking 1.3 million fewer trips to Quebec compared to 2001. That number, which includes same-day trips, is off by nearly half Canada-wide.


"It's astounding," said Statistics Canada analyst Paul Durk, "these are very big drops."


There are a number of reasons why the Americans are staying away. New border security requirements, the perception of long border wait times, and even cross-border shopping may be less attractive for aging baby boomers, Durk suggested.


Overall, there is a growing fear for the coming year, particularly since the recession has gone global.


Already, there has been a sharp decrease in tourism from Britain and soon the rest of Europe will follow.


"It will affect big cities the most," said Pierre Bellerose, vice-president of Tourism Montreal. "The cities get more international clients."


In the last few years, the American malaise has been offset by increases in tourism from Europe and Mexico. And Montreal's hotels were saved last year by a strong convention calendar.


But this year will be different. Bellerose said they're expecting the tourism sector to decline 2 to 3 per cent overall.


Quebec's government has stepped in. On Sunday, Tourism Minister Nicole Ménard announced she's giving $4.2 million in financial help to certain businesses and groups, such as Aventure Écotourisme Québec, to try to pump up the tourist volume, and, a spokesperson said, to get past the economic crisis.


It won't be easy.


The horizon is bleak.


Last year, there were 336 restaurant bankruptcies, the Association des restaurateurs du Québec reports – a 20 per cent increase from the year prior.


Pappas, who also owns a nightclub in Montreal, describes having to cut staff in response to the American tourist decline. And until his bright idea to "pay what you can," his Taverne Crescent was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays because it was losing money.


With no Formula One Grand Prix in Montreal this summer, he said, "It's going to be worse!"




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You have to be foolish to think a customer who doesn't pay a dime now will come back a few months down the road and pay double the price to make it even. This guy is desperate for business. Although I didn't know Crescent street was suffering that much. I guess besides the usual American, not much locals get drunk on that street.

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I think that this is actually a fairly good idea marketing-wise. Now, tons of people are hearing about this restaurant because of his promotion. The owner will have customers coming in droves.


For the long-term, this won't work that well, but hey, if the customers enjoy the experience at his establishment, then perhaps they'll be willing to pay the price he suggests.

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I was talking with french tourists yesterday about this restaurant and they told me that restos already did that in France !! So maybe it is where the Taverne Crescent's owner got the idea !!

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donc je peux aller là, me commander 3 assiettes de thon rouge, donner 15$ et m'en aller???? ça ne fait aucun sens.


non, apprend à lire.


[...]So yesterday, lunch-hour customers were given the choice of an appetizer, plus either tagliatelle bolognese, salmon or braised beef, and coffee or tea, for whatever they wanted to pay. For a dollar even. Or nothing.[...]
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Dans les faits, presque personne ne va là sans payer. Je suis déjà aller à un resto du genre à New York, et en regardant autour, la majorité des gens laissaient au moins un vingt (pour un resto italien de base à la Pacini)


En y pensant rapidement, le coût de base de ces plats là est pas si haut, et même si les gens laissent moins, ils rentrent probablement dans leur argent par le volume!

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