How Sociavore and Digital Main Street helped a bakery transform their online business


The Client: L'Auberge de France

L'Auberge de France is a unique French culinary experience in downtown Belleville, ON. Chef Jean-Marc Salvagno and his team can be seen throughout the week preparing fine French cuisine and baking fresh bread & croissants the old-fashioned way on Saturday mornings. L'Auberge de France also sells gourmet food ingredients & imported French wine for customers to enjoy at home.

The Challenge: Updating a traditional bakery & cafe website to serve an online customer base

At the beginning of 2020, L'Auberge de France was a traditional French bakery in Belleville, ON, with a loyal local customer base and reached new customers mostly through word of mouth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jean-Marc realized he needed to move the business online quickly to stay in touch with customers. He started listing their fresh bread & gourmet shop items on an online community marketplace built on Shopify but quickly encountered issues:

  • The Shopify interface was designed for retail, not meals, making it hard to list menu items for sale online.
  • Filtering through online order e-mail notifications was time-consuming.
  • Sales through the online marketplace were only paid out once a week, tying up cash needed to run the business.

Jean-Marc knew he needed to find a new online ordering solution fast. He needed an e-commerce platform built specifically for restaurants that he could control and customize to fit his unique business needs. Most importantly, it needed to be fast to set up and easy for customers to place weekly bread orders.

"We needed help fast - every week, we were losing sales. We couldn't promote our meals & fresh items properly on Shopify, and customers needed help placing orders. When we did make sales, we had to wait days or weeks for sales deposits which created cash problems."

What Sociavore provided

A customized e-commerce website with:

Bakery-specific inventory management

Online ordering for fresh bread & gourmet food items

Recurring weekly pickup schedules

Digital gift card management

A dedicated kitchen printer to manage online orders

Express setup to launch the new website in weeks, not months

The Solution: A new Sociavore online ordering website with bakery-specific inventory management tools

Jean-Marc contacted the Downtown Belleville BIA, which connected him with a Digital Main Street (DMS) Service Squad team member. With DMS' help, Jean-Marc secured a $2,500 Ontario Digital Transformation Grant that he could use towards developing a new e-commerce website. DMS also connected Jean-Marc with an Ontario-based startup, Sociavore, which designs online management tools with restaurant and hospitality management in mind.

Sociavore's Express Setup team got to work immediately and quickly built a custom-themed bakery & cafe website with online ordering capability. A Sociavore team member worked with Jean-Marc to upload menus and integrate marketing tools such as social media & e-mail newsletter signup. Jean-Marc also used part of his grant funds to hire local commercial photographer Christopher Gentile to shoot mouth-watering pictures to add to his online ordering menus.

Photographed by Christopher Gentile for L'Auberge de France

With Sociavore's help, Jean-Marc was able to launch a new website in just a few weeks. The new bakery website features separate online ordering menus for cafe & gourmet food items available daily, and fresh bread & croissant pre-ordering available every Saturday. Sociavore provides Jean-Marc the flexibility and control to launch new menu items, create special event menus, and adjust pickup schedules to suit his business needs.

Best of all, Sociavore greatly simplifies restaurants' online order fulfillment process. Orders print on a dedicated kitchen printer that prints online order kitchen tickets & receipts, which means no sifting through e-mail notifications. Customers checkout & pay directly on the restaurant website with Google Pay, Apple Pay, or a credit card through integration with Square Payments. And all online sales are deposited directly into L'Auberge's business bank account the next day.

The Result: New revenue streams and a new customer base

The results were immediate. The morning after the Sociavore website launch, Jean-Marc's staff saw overnight orders spooling to the floor from the kitchen printer. On Shopify, order size would average $5-$10 for one or two items. Now, on the website, locals are placing $20-$100 orders thanks to Sociavore's easy-to-use online ordering menus with professional new product photography. L'Auberge de France enjoyed a huge increase in online revenue, providing the restaurant with much-needed funds to help get through the pandemic.

Sociavore also opened the door to new revenue streams for the business. Jean-Marc launched a successful digital gift card sale in time for Mother's Day, which created a short-term cash influx and boosted customer awareness of the website's new online ordering system. With cash in hand, L'Auberge could launch new products & special menus available for online pre-order, including gourmet French meals-to-go and virtual wine-tasting events.

Surprisingly, the online ordering website created a new seasonal customer base. Positive reviews about L'Auberge's fantastic croissants & pastries spread over social media, which lead to an increase in tourists placing $50+ online orders for pickup as they drive through Belleville on the way to cottage country or a weekend getaway in Prince Edward County. Jean-Marc uses Sociavore's detailed sales tracking and reports to forecast seasonal demand and hire seasonal staff as needed.

After almost 20 years in business, L'Auberge de France thrived during the pandemic thanks to online ordering powered by Socivaore. Customers enjoy the simplicity and convenience of placing advance bakery orders from their mobile device or computer, and L'Auberge now has more new and regular customers than ever before.

"Sociavore and Digital Main Street gave us the boost to transform our business and make it through the pandemic. Now, L'Auberge de France is here to stay with the digital tools we need to keep our current customers delighted and reach new customers online."


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