Peterborough Businesses Benefit From Online Revolution Brought By COVID-19


About half of all orders for sandwiches, sides and more at Sam’s Place Deli in Peterborough are made through their online ordering system on their website.

Restaurant manager Shae Doucet replies when asked how the online domain has impacted the business.

“It has been great in maintaining the volume of business that we had already established,” she says of how online ordering has helped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, more businesses moved online as physical storefronts closed.

While nearly every business has reopened to customers and capacity limits have all but disappeared, for many businesses the rapid adoption of online storefronts has changed the customer experience forever.

“People are still calling… a lot of people still like to have this personal conversation, but for others, it’s quick; you’re on the computer and you’re done, ”says Doucet.

By accessing the Sam’s Place website, you can directly place an order for take out or inside meals.

Because of that, the orders are more structured, explains Doucet. While some customers will still come in, order and wait, they can now place their order online and have it ready for pickup the moment they arrive.

“It helped line efficiency and faster order output, and it’s just easier to control,” says Doucet.

That’s important for the rushed lunch crowd downtown, where many patrons have a short window to grab food and get back to work, she notes.

While the pandemic has been difficult for many businesses, says Doucet, between ordering online and the new take-out window, they’ve managed to cope well.

It helps that Sam’s Place embraced online ordering just months before the COVID-19 lockdowns began.

“It’s almost like (owner Sam Sayer) predicted it; she knows what she’s doing, ”laughs Doucet.

Sam’s Place, along with other downtown businesses that have embraced online ordering, were also collected from The Boro, a website created during the pandemic to connect customers to businesses.

While many local stores have been heading online for some time now, the pandemic has pushed them into the deep end.

“For a lot of businesses, going online is something they’ve always known they need to do,” says Joel Wiebe, government relations coordinator for the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber now operates the Digital Main Streets program, which has helped businesses connect with a $ 2,500 grant.

The program was previously managed by the Downtown Business Improvement Zone, but is now offered to businesses outside of the Central Zone.

Many have used virtual storefronts as an “emergency measure” when their physical stores were closed, Wiebe says, but have now realized the benefit of being online.

“You see a lot more companies continuing to invest, because it’s not a stopgap, it’s not a fad. He is here to stay, ”he notes.

Having online storefronts allows more businesses to compete with big box options like Amazon, but it still allows customers to have a connection with the business.

Customers can ask questions, get recommendations, and speak directly to staff through social media, and that’s something these other services lack, Wiebe says.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses find that this model still works online,” he adds.

This is the case of Désirée Kretschmar, whose company, Plant Goals, took off during the pandemic.

Kretschmar says that despite working in e-commerce before starting her business, she believed an online storefront would be something she would adopt later.

But a week after moving into a larger storefront on Water Street, the pandemic shut down his business from in-person shopping. Kretschmar thought she needed to log in to survive.

“What would our other options be? She wondered.

As the pandemic lasted for weeks and then months longer than expected, she began to create an online sequel.

Today about 30% of its business is done online, and with delivery some customers never have to leave their homes.

“We have people who have never been to the store but who love commerce,” says Kretschmar.

But building an online storefront isn’t something you do and then forget. She notes that she continues to improve the online experience, making it easier for customers to place orders and get what they want.

Though fueled by the pandemic, her business is now forever changed alongside others who have been forced to adapt in order to survive.

“Even the little mom-and-pop shops that would never have been online are now online,” adds Kretschmar.


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