Toronto’s Brazilian Bakery Padaria bakes digital strategy into main street expansion
The weekend after Brazilian bakery Padaria opened in Toronto’s Midtown, a line-up snaked around the block. It was May 2020, the first few months of the pandemic, and Fabiana Del Bianco, who owns the bakery alongside her brother Tiago and business partner Maira Tozzi, had no idea how it would be received. But they did know they’d picked the right spot to open it: on Yonge Street just south of Eglinton, an area that is slowly becoming a favourite for a growing Brazilian diaspora. “We all live here so we knew there was a big Brazilian community in the area,” says Del Bianco.
Padaria’s business plan wasn’t made with the pandemic in mind. Its story begins a few years earlier when Del Bianco and Tozzi met on Facebook after realizing they’d both be coming to Canada to attend George Brown’s renowned culinary program. They became fast friends in their new home.
Within a few years, Tiago, a trained chef, joined his sister in Toronto, bringing his own family with him. Collectively, Del Bianco, Tozzi, and Tiago decided to launch a business together. They wanted something related to Brazilian cuisine but weren’t sure what kind yet. “We started working in a few restaurants in Canada because we wanted to research the market – what does it feel like as employees? How does it work to buy things? How is it to operate a restaurant here?”
During that time, they each found a niche: Tiago in cooking and baking bread, Tozzi through the artistry of pastries, and Del Bianco in customer service. “A bakery was something where we could join what everybody wanted to do in one place.”
The Brazilian community in Toronto didn’t disagree, quickly seeing the nuance in Padaria’s offering when contrasted with the selection of Portuguese bakeries in the city. But they found a bigger community too as evidenced by the sprawling line-ups. And that required adaptation.
Using the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant from Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future, Padaria was able to invest in a website to allow for online orders. “That was a huge help for us because we needed pictures, we needed someone to develop the website – I do most things now – but we needed help to start it.”
She says the website has become a huge sales channel. “All the custom orders come from there – we sell big cakes and large catering for corporate and social events – everything through the website.” People can place orders for same-day or next-day pick-ups. It’s a radical change from what they initially envisioned the business to be. But it’s a positive change, a byproduct of evolving consumer patterns. “The average spend is very high through the online store.”
The online shop also allows the kitchen at Padaria to be organized in advance to better meet demand. And demand is growing. In June, Padaria opened a second location in the Junction neighbourhood. “The demographics are different, it’s lower density,” says Del Bianco. But the community has responded with the same fervour. “Even the businesses around are buying things from us to serve in their restaurants… they’re supportive and (the business) is growing.”
Padaria has seemingly found the right balance of digital presence, e-commerce and main street connection. Through that, they’ve expanded their clientele beyond the neighbourhoods where the bakeries are. “We started delivering all over and then we started delivering to other cities,” says Del Bianco. “That was something that we didn't expect to do and within a few months, we had to do it –it’s been great.”
Check out Padaria's delicious food here!
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Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.