We’ll see you in there.
Connect to customize your food & drink discovery.
Though Ontario is well on its way to entering the third and final step of the province's re-opening plan, many small business owners are still recouping from the major hit the pandemic took on Toronto's food and drink industry.
Digital Main Street is a not-for-profit organization with funding from both the federal government and the province of Ontario, making their services free to use. Since its origins in 2020, the ShopHERE powered by Google program has helped nearly 16,000 businesses, with nearly 2000 of those establishments being food and drink related (including restaurants, grocers, breweries, cafés and more).
With e-commerce now acting as one of the predominant ways to place food orders, purchase goods or check out a restaurant's reservation and menu information, Digital Main Street has re-launched its ShopHERE project for the Summer season, with the goal of setting up even more small business owners for success in the digital food landscape.
To be eligible to register, your business must have under ten full-time employees (25 for restaurants) and the business must be registered in Ontario. Essentially, once approved for the program, you will be paired with an e-commerce coordinator who will assist you in creating and configuring your online store, train you in how to manage it, provide support to get your site live and help with marketing.
The program typically takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete, but timelines may vary depending on your business's needs. Should you only be looking for marketing help or tips and tricks on how to succeed in the world of e-commerce, the program is also happy to help you out.
The program has a number of benefits, including free 1:1 support with building and launching the website, advertising credits for Facebook, and a free.ca Google domain registration for a year. Shopify, Square and Lightspeed are three key partners of the Digital Main Street and are offering their own perks for using their platforms, such as extended trials and no transaction fees for the first $1000 in generated income.
Around 159 restaurants and cafés in Toronto used the services of the ShopHERE program during the thick of the pandemic and were able to maintain a flow of business during the darker lockdown-filled months.
Hong Dai, the founder of Another Land Coffee in North York, says, “When the pandemic started and the whole country went into lockdown, we suddenly lost contact with all the customers we see every day. Digital Main Street built us a beautiful and functional website where we could reconnect with our customers and continue to serve them with great coffee to make at home. Even after the lockdown, having a professional website and being able to sell products online has been a great asset to our business and we are very thankful for what the Digital Main Street has done for us.”
Reena Newman, owner and founder of Reena Baked It, a micro-bakery in Toronto’s West end, explains, “When I first realized that my business was beginning to go somewhere, I needed a better way to organize orders and promote myself. The Digital Main Street put together my online store, and had me organized in a few weeks.”
The coordinators on the program are knowledgeable and personable, with a knack for digital design, and can tailor your experience in any way that works best for you.
Newman says, “My coordinator was amazing. She was quick, full of solutions, and put up with my non-tech-savviness. I couldn’t be more impressed with her and the program. Now that my webshop is all set up and running smoothly, I don’t have to worry about missing DM’s on other platforms or organizing e-transfers. Having everything in one place has made things easier for my customers and easier for me. I’m so happy to have been part of this program!”
Digital Main Street ShopHERE powered by Google is scheduled to run until the end of March 2022, with the hope that it will once again be extended and continue to grow, allowing more businesses across the country the chance to receive free online support.
For more information - or to register - visit their website, where you can fill out the application form and be paired with an e-commerce coordinator in as little as 24 hours.