News from Digital Main Street

Toronto’s A-Game Café thrives off the interplay between nostalgia and technology

Andrew Seale | March 6, 2017

Derek Fung knew nostalgia would be a factor in getting people through the door of A-Game Café, but keeping current with social media has proved just as vital to bringing customers into the board game café.

“It’s the bridge that makes it accessible to a larger audience than we would be able to get just by standing on the street saying ‘hey guys, do you play board games? Come check us out,’ ” says the entrepreneur. “It can give you a couple seconds out of somebody’s day that they wouldn't normally give you because a picture drew their interest.”

And it’s critical for drawing those customers into the space to play some of A-Game’s more than 300 games, especially given the cafés inconspicuous position on the second floor of a restaurant across from the attention-seeking Much Music building on Queen. Derek, who opened the board game café with his brother Gary in May last year, has even tried to expand the ties between the online community through Facebook, Meetup and more recently, a custom customer engagement and mobile payment app developed by Toronto-based ReUp

 With only 12 tables, it’s a relatively small space often filled with regulars, paying $3.50 an hour to play or $7 for the whole evening.

 “The social aspect is what keeps people coming back,” he says. They’ve only been testing ReUp, which allows customers to add credit to their accounts and pay through their phones, for a month but it’s just one in a suite of digital tools the café has embraced.

 “We use an iPad for point of sale – TouchBistro,” he says. “We're part of WorkPerks too, (a program that) offers discounts for different businesses around the city.”

 The program, powered by Venngo, gives discounts to employees at places like CIBC, bringing them through the door. In return, Derek can offer the same discounts to his own employees at other businesses. “It’s kind of this cool thing where you have big companies and the banks doing it and I’m able to offer the same discounts to my four employees.”

It’s funny testing out all these technologies admits, Derek, given that the nature of the place is offering an unplugged social alternative for an increasingly plugged-in society.

“Here, you rarely see people on their phones,” says Derek. “It’s a lot more socializing, hanging out, laughing, being around each other, which is something I think we take for granted.”

 While keeping up with the technology carries its own set of challenges, both brothers find the pace of running a board game café more in line with what they’ve come to value about work. Derek has a background in finance while Gary spent the first part of his career in the food industry.

 “We jumped in quickly,” says Derek. But then again, the idea that they’re all in – playing the games with the regulars, teaching games to new customers or even just hanging out and chatting – all adds up to a unique experience akin to hanging out in somebody’s living room as opposed to going to a café.

 “For us the returning customers are what makes it more rewarding to us,” he says. As for the technology, that just helps to keep the curious coming through the door.

Learn More

Peter Pan Bistro treads the line between Queen Street’s past and a digital future

Andrew Seale | November 23, 2016

 Peter Pan Bistro treads the line between Queen Street’s past and a digital future Chef Noah Goldberg managed to clinch one of his dream spots for a restaurant, re-establishing the decades old establishment Peter Pan bistro in the heart of Queen West. Now his greatest challenge is preserving the past while embracing the future.


When Noah Goldberg returned overseas from his understudy in the renowned London kitchens of Wild Honey and St. John he had a shortlist of Toronto spaces in mind. Peter Pan bistro at the corner of Peter and Queen sat near the top.


“There are three or four spaces I dreamt about when I was moving back and was like if I could ever grab one of those locations...” says Chef Noah Goldberg. 


“You can’t get rooms like this in Toronto, it needed to be preserved,” says the entrepreneur pointing out all the original elements – the tin ceiling, the moulding, the bar top, the bar back – all of it heirlooms to the days when this section of the city was, quite literally, Toronto. “It’s basically got a 2016 body with an 1890 shell.”

It’s been a two and a half years since Noah took over the space and a year and a half since Peter Pan Bistro was officially “re-established”– the apex of the chef’s 12 year career that has taken him from the kitchens of Susur
Lee in Toronto to working under Chef Daniel Boulud in New York and across the Atlantic to the U.K. 


But while Toronto’s foodie environment begs certain forgetfulness amongst diners, a constantly mutating form with new eateries spiking out haphazardly in all neighbourhoods, Noah wanted something rooted in history.

Peter Pan Bistro has proved to be the perfect conduit, but Noah doesn’t plan on standing still.


“I think restaurants are living things, I think it’s hard to start with a restaurant in its natural form and make it profitable, it’s a lot of adjusting and working,” he admits. “ think that I completely underestimated the digital end of that – just the kinds of hats I would wear in here...that was sort of neglected.”


He points out that while the digital side has proved to be a lot of work, it’s a critical component of the business. 


“It’s a job that needs to be taken seriously, it’s not just a sub-job for someone to do and jump on, it has to be a choreographed thing,” says Noah.


While the backend transactional side is still a mix of paperwork and cloud services, he’s focused his efforts on the frontend digital components using YP Dine, the Yellow Pages-run infrastructure – to host the website and keep the online elements in check. It also helps them keep the online menu consistent with what they’re offering. They have used loyalty programs in the past through Bookenda but the system is being updated by YP currently. The website is plugged into Google Analytics to get an idea of how visitors are finding and using the site.


But it’s social media that has proven to be one of the restaurant’s greatest digital assets.


“When I did my pop up and I talked about the idea of opening a restaurant for six months on the second floor of a bar with no storefront,” he says. “50 years ago people only knew you by walking by your store looking in your window and figuring out who you were –now you can be cooking out of a backyard fire pit or wherever you want to be and still get your voice out to a targeted group of people that are going to want to come.”


And it’s through this digital lens that Noah is able to preserve the past while still looking forward.


“I think it’s important to have a clear strategy when you’re starting and understanding the brand you want to project and what you want people to see and be targeted towards that and organized, ” he says. “It’s not a very difficult thing to execute, it’s just a matter of staying on brand and understanding what you’re try to do.”


Learn More

7 Awesome Content Sources That Take the Stress out of Social Media Sharing

Mark Macdonald @ Shopify | October 19, 2016

You've been told that in order to build an audience on social media around your brand, you need to be sharing “great content”.

The problem is, you’re busy – and constantly making sure you have interesting stuff lined up to tweet, pin and post can be a challenging and stressful daily task that interrupts your workflow.

But here’s the thing.

Building an audience around your business by creating, curating and sharing great content isimportant.

It gives you way to provide ongoing value to people outside of the products you sell. It also makes you relevant and gives people a reason to follow you, while providing you with a way to stay in touch with people over time.

And the key to effective content curation that builds an audience (and your business) is sharing content that promotes the lifestyle around your products rather than just your products themselves.

It’s how Beardbrand built a $40k per month ecommerce business around the “bearded lifestyle” and how created a multi-million dollar pet business powered by cute puppy photos.

So, how do you keep your social streams topped up with compelling stories and links that will attract an audience, without spending the entire day scouring the web?

To help you out, we've assembled seven awesome resources that take the guesswork out of finding "great content" – including the site that Buzzfeed sources much of its content from.

It’s time to take the stress out of social media sharing.

7 Awesome Content Sources That Take the Stress out of Social Media Sharing

Note: make sure to check out our bonus tip at the end to learn how you can schedule your social sharing so it takes up a fraction of your time each day.

1. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is at the top of this list for a reason:

It enables you to search for relevant content using keywords, and then presents you with the most popular content based on social shares.

Each piece of content is ranked by how widely it was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. In addition, BuzzSumo lets you filter by date and content type, including interviews, videos, infographics, and more.

For example, lets say you sell baby clothes online, you'd search for "baby":

1. BuzzSumo

Buzzsumo will then show you the most popular stories related to your keyword, based on the timeframe and content type you've selected.

1. BuzzSumo

You now have a handy list of some of the most popular content on the web from your industry. The top three results in the above screenshot alone have over one million social shares combined in the last month. 

It's worth mentioning that you should remember to pay particular attention to content that's performing well on the platforms that your audience uses. In other words, if your potential customers hang out on Pinterest, content that has performed well on Twitter may not be as relevant to you.

2. Reddit

Reddit is a massive entertainment, social networking, and news website which spans all sorts of topics, and is home to much of the internet’s most interesting content, images, videos and everyday comical online occurrences.

Most importantly, however, Reddit is also home to “sub-reddits” – categories dedicated to certain topics and interests.

For example, if your brand revolves around fitness, the /r/fitness sub-reddit is where you’ll want to hang out. For fashion related content, it would be /r/fashion.

You'll find that all major topics will have a main sub-reddit like the two mentioned above, and usually a few smaller off-shoot sub-reddits as well.  

To find a sub-reddit for your niche, simply use Reditt’s search feature. Just type a keyword related to your business and Reddit will display related sub-reddits as well as the subscriber count for each:

2. Reddit

Next you'll want to head over the sub-reddit of your choice where you can view the most upvoted content from the community there. You can then filter to view the most popular content from the past hour, past 24 hours, past month, past year and all time.

2. Reddit

What’s great is that this content has already been proven to resonate with your target audience so chances are it will perform well for you - especially if you aggregate it and package it up in interesting ways. 

Hint: this is exactly what Buzzfeed does for much of its viral content:

2. Reddit

If you want use this "Buzzfeed technique", start with a piece of content like this:

2. Reddit

Then go through the discussion thread and find the most upvoted comments containing fitness machine recommendations:

2. Reddit

2. Reddit

Now you've got a list of crowd-sourced fitness machine recommendations that you can take and turn into a Buzzfeed style blog post like "10 High-Impact Weight Machines You Should Be Using in Your Workouts".

3. Feedly

3. Feedly

Feedly is an RSS news feed aggregator that makes it easy for you to gather and organize content from around the web. In addition to pulling in content from your favorite blogs, you can also use it to bring in top news content from Google News using Google's free Alerts service. 

Just head over to Google Alerts, enter your keyword(s), select 'RSS feed' from the 'Deliver to' field and click 'Create Alert'. 

3. Feedly

Next, copy the RSS feed url of your newly created alert to your clipboard. 

3. Feedly

Head back to Feedly, click 'Add Content', and paste in your new RSS feed url.

3. Feedly

Click '+Feedly' and you're all set.

3. Feedly

Now you've got a list articles that you can share and use to position your brand as a go-to news source in your industry. 

You can also use Feedly's search feature to discover other popular content sources in your industry: 

3. Feedly

When you've found a piece of content you like, you can quickly and easily share it to your social accounts right from Feedly:

3. Feedly

Spending a little bit of time setting up Feedly with high quality feeds can save you a lot of time when it comes to finding and sharing great content that will resonate with your audience.

4. Topsy

Similar to BuzzSumo, Topsy allows you to discover popular content on Twitter. However, it has some Twitter-specific features that allow you to filter and drill down a little deeper.

You can search for relevant keywords across links, tweets, videos, photos and most importantly, Twitter influencers.

4. Topsy

You can find out what the top influencers within each niche are sharing by sorting their tweets by relevance and date. This comes in handy not just for finding content, but also for finding influencers in your space that you can network with. 

5. Medium Collections

5. Medium Collections

Medium is a free blogging platform with plenty of popularity both among everyday bloggers and industry experts. In other words, a lot of people are writing a lot of good content on it.

The homepage is a nice place to pick up the odd story, but you’ll find the most relevant gems within Medium Collections. Here are some of our favourites.

To find top content on medium for your area of interest, head over to Medium's search page and start typing your keyword. As you type a list of tags will appear on the right hand side:

5. Medium Collections

Click on the most relevant tag and you'll get a page of results containing Medium's top content from that category:

5. Medium Collections

Make sure you bookmark this page so you can come back to it quickly in the future. You can also find a great list of Medium collections here

6. Content Gems

Content Gems is a platform dedicated to finding great content for you, so you can focus on other tasks.

The platform reviews 200,000+ news sources, blogs, and social media accounts to bring you the very best content in a daily email. Naturally, you can configure your preferences in order to receive relevant content.

6. Content Gems

You can sign up for a free account and create a custom dashboard around the topics you're interested in and quickly share any piece of content:

6. Content Gems

I've found that Content Gems can be good for adding a little variety to your content mix and finding stuff that you don't see everywhere else.

7. is a great resource to discover and browse curated content covering tens-of-thousands of topics, ranging from niche area of academics to broad interests such as food, health, sports and entertainment.

Major topics like Business, Crafts, Education, How-to and more each have their own boards. Each board has a series of sub-boards that let you discover more specific content from that category.


Scheduling Your Social Content

Scheduling Your Social Content

Now that you know where to find great content for your social media followers to share, it’s time to streamline the entire process of actually sharing it all in the first place.

Believe it or not, managing multiple social media accounts doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to use the right tools for the job at hand.

I recommend Buffer, an app which make your social media campaigns more manageable across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

Buffer allows you to schedule your social media posts throughout the day and week, helping you to hitthose peak times with your best content.

Scheduling Your Social Content

After you configure your settings, a Buffer button will be added to your browser, enabling you to quickly add content to your Buffer queue as and when you see it.

In addition to scheduling, Buffer also has a suggested content feed that offers a curated list of popular content in various categories, selected by Buffer staff. This can be a handy resource if you need something in pinch and don't have time to comb through your other feeds.  

Scheduling Your Social Content

Bringing it All Together

While this may seem like a lot to set up, it's really not that bad. If you spend an hour and half gathering your feeds and bookmarking your content sources, you'll have quick and convenient access to great content that you can quickly and easily share across your social accounts.

Take some time at the beginning of the week, or half an hour each morning, to schedule out your content so you don't have to worry about it throughout the day – giving you more time to focus on other important tasks that grow your business.

Just keep in mind, that while scheduling is great, it's not a replacement for genuine, real-time engagement with your audience. You still need to do that :)

However, the above strategiies will make your day-to-day social sharing ore manageable and can help position you as a trusted source of great hand-picked content – which is becoming more and more valuable the noisier the web gets. 

P.S. Have you signed up for free email updates yet? You'll get fresh ecommerce marketing advice delivered to your inbox as soon as it’s published. Just enter your email below. 

Learn More
Be part of the Digital Main Street today!
  • Get access to member exclusive case studies and events
  • Find the best vendor for your needs, including member exclusive deals and offers
  • Learn how to generate more revenue with your business by maximizing your digital profile