Founded in 2013, the first La Maison Smith coffee shop opened in the bustling Place Royale square. Over the past seven years, this family-run business has had tremendous success, expanding to six separate locations across Québec. Their first few shops were placed in busy tourist areas, but they opted to put last year’s new locations in more french-dominated neighbourhoods. Executive director Mathilde Plante St-Arnaud describes these suburban additions as their saving grace since Québec city centres are emptier than ever before.
As a cafe, La Maison Smith’s most popular menu item is a good old cup of coffee. They’ve recently opened up a central kitchen that prepares food for all six locations, allowing customers to enjoy homemade sandwiches, pastries, salads, etc. with their beverage. This off-site kitchen has made it much easier to implement all health and safety requirements, and kitchen employees feel safe knowing that they don’t need to interact with the public. For the cafe’s and their staff, La Maison Smith only services two customers at a time to ensure employee and customer safety.
The decision to re-open came in waves. With six cafes in six different neighbourhoods, the financial feasibility of re-opening varied across the board. The typically busy locations in touristy Québec City saw the most significant decrease in traffic, as the city has had few visitors throughout this pandemic. Sales at their Desjardins street cafe have decreased an estimated 50-70%. Five of the six cafes have been able to re-open, with the hope that tourists and workers return to Québec City soon and make the opening of their flagship location possible.
“Staying positive and keeping employees motivated has been a major challenge through this all. Every day we have to come up with new strategies for new problems, and all our employees are stressed.” Explains Mathilde. “We went from 80 employees to 15, and now we’re back up to 75. But to compare, we were at 110 last summer, so we’re far from our normal.”
La Maison Smith and many other Canadian businesses are beginning to see the effects of impacted supply chains. Delays in coffee deliveries have been inevitable, and some of their suppliers for other core ingredients have temporarily closed or faced bankruptcy. It became difficult to find new suppliers for those products. When May came around, many restaurants opened back up and began ordering products once again, but suppliers weren’t ready for the influx. This lead to further complication in the supply chain.
“Despite new challenges, we continue to try and find ways to reach customers. We’re now on Uber Eats and have been since May.” States Mathilde. “We’re still here! We’ve figured out a way to stay open because we want to be there for our customers. We’re all in this together.”
For more information on La Maison Smith, please visit https://smithcafe.com/.