The recession hits the French restaurant scene hard and many places close down.
Le Chien Méchant suffers thanks to Claude, a waiter who was promising at first but gets lazy when the government changes the law for restaurant workers, giving him too much job security.
He's working the system to get money out of the restaurant, but they eventually fire him. Unfortunately, though, he comes back with a union representative, which is exactly what they were worried about.
The rep basically blackmails Hassan into trying to keep Claude on staff, but in the end they pay him off to never return.
Hassan says that Paul saw these problems coming, and studied the haute fashion world, which had suffered in the same way. Basically, the world doesn't have a place for those top-notch restaurants like it used to—people can't afford them, so they're becoming outdated.
Hassan returns home that night to a worried and nagging Mehtab. Before he goes to sleep he remembers visiting a chicken farm, and describes the process of how they are stunned in a long assembly line before they are all butchered. He sees this as a comforting metaphor of life; moving on when we don't know what's next. Not sure we quite feel the same way about this one, but to each his own.
He then remembers something his uncle told him as a kid in Mumbai: "'It is Allah who gives and takes away'" (17.49).
"The last pivotal event" (17.50): Hassan is greeting by a huge surprise at Le Chet Méchant. Margaret Bonnier, his old co-worker and girlfriend at Le Saule Pleureur comes to see him; she is much older (funny how time works), but still soft spoken and lovely. She had married back in Lumière and is now newly divorced, with two small children. She has moved to Paris to start over and is looking for a job.
Hassan does not have an opening but makes a phone call and sets her up with Chef Piquot at his place.
When he hangs up the phone she begins sobbing, and reaches her hand blindly across the table for his. Hassan realizes how much she's been suffering.