02:23 – How the Round Table came to be
04:23 – Round Table’s transition to serve the community, during Covid
05:23 – Introducing themed Food Kits and creating experiences
07:24 – Where you park your dragons
08:25 – Food Kits: The 411
10:35 – Online store walkthrough
11:56 – Supporting local Artisans
16:42 – The positive results of pivoting
18:28 – Round table and raw, fresh foods
19:28 – The power of the $1 Facebook Ad
22:26 – The power of keeping Facebook Ad images fresh
23:33 – What’s with Cameron’s massive 3 inch hole in his chest?!
24:44 – Recap and Summary
Click the “Connect” tab to browse web/social links …
Online Store: roundtablewaterloo.square.site
Website — General: roundtabletavern.com
Website — Waterloo: waterloo.roundtablekingdom.com
Instagram — Guelph Location: @roundtableguelph
Instagram — Waterloo Location: @roundtablewaterloo
Instagram — Kitchener Location: @roundtablekitchener
Twitter — Guelph Location: @RoundTableEXP
Twitter — Waterloo Location: @RTWaterloo
Twitter — Kitchener Location: @KitchenerRound
Jason Bavington (00:02):
Hey everyone, it’s Jason with DUX — Your Local City Guide and welcome to another episode of our video blog. Now, you know, we’ve been interviewing a variety of businesses, a variety of organizations out there, hearing all the great things they’ve been doing to pivot and contribute and support the community during the current Covid-19 crisis. And I know about you guys, but you know, being stuck at home for the past, I don’t know, 50 odd days going on now. You know, you kind of run into things to do. Netflix, with it’s 10 gazillion videos. Actually, it actually gets boring. Like who would ever have thought Netflix would get boring but it does. And so, you know, open up the closet, break out the board games, play some of the titles that we haven’t played in a long time and it’s a lot of fun and it reminds me of a fantastic location in Guelph Ontario known as “The Round Table”. And we have Cameron Shaver who is COO of Round Table on the call today. Morning, Cameron!
Cameron Shaver (00:56):
Morning, morning. Thank you for having me out. I really appreciate that. Love the opportunity to chat.
Jason Bavington (01:00):
Our pleasure and yeah, it sucks that, you know, for all the three or four board games I have in my house that you guys have what, like 8 million board games on hand th none of us can play right now. It just doesn’t seem fair.
Cameron Shaver (01:13):
Yeah. We can keep ourselves oddly occupied with that. Mind you, our end of things is kind of like, we’re taking the opportunity to take every single playable board game off the shelf, organized, clean, re put back in, make sure all of the little Meeple get back in the right spot and everything has all the dice. So, we’ve been busy.
Jason Bavington (01:31):
Yeah. Make sure all of the monopoly money is all facing the right way.
Cameron Shaver (01:34):
Exactly. We don’t need to, but when you got it right there, you’re like, “Oh, okay, I can make it all neat.” And we’ve got like, piles and baggies and elastics and yeah, those board games will be super organized once things get running again.
Jason Bavington (01:46):
So Cameron, I got gotta I gotta say that, you know, from this point going forward, you’re going to make every other one of my interviewees look bad with considering their, you know, their Zoom background because that has to be the most kickass background that I’ve come across so far. So how did you pull it off?
Cameron Shaver (02:03):
I don’t know what you mean. I’m just sitting at The Round Table right now. This is what, this is The Round Table.
Jason Bavington (02:08):
it’s just a regular day in the life of Cameron.
Cameron Shaver (02:10):
Yeah. I’m just chilling at The Round Table. You know, this isn’t a virtual background that just happens to be a picture of The Round Table that I downloaded from our Facebook page. Not at all.
Jason Bavington (02:19):
Interesting……. So thanks for joining us again today. Cameron, first tell me a little bit about Round Table. How the whole idea started. I know for Guelph it was a very unique thing that came to the city. It filled a really interesting niche. You have a great following. What you guys are doing is, yeah, it’s very, very, I can’t think of a better word other than “unique”. So tell us a little bit about Round Table, pre Covid.
Cameron Shaver (02:44):
Yeah, it’s definitely a unique spot and we aim to make it that way. And… Sorry, just one second. Akio, refill!
Cameron Shaver (02:55):
There you go. Bam! Right. Thanks, Akio. I appreciate that.
Cameron Shaver (03:00):
All right here. Just keep the change there. Okay. Alright. Um, so yeah, so The Round Table is a unique place. There are lots of different board game cafes out there, but we position ourselves to be like a Disneyland type experience. One of our focuses is authenticity. When you enter a Round Table location, we want to be an authentic, unique experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else. Yes, we have board games, but the atmosphere of the events, the food, we really aim to set ourselves apart with those sorts of things. And we have three locations — our Guelph, our Kitchener, our Waterloo one. Each with a slightly different edge or feel to them. They’re all board game cafes, but our Waterloo location leans a little more towards pub food. They have the fully functioned all out high end kitchen kind of thing. Whereas our Kitchener location caters a little more towards coffee culture. So we have the high end coffees, the kind of more snacky menus and quick takeaway things for lunch as you’re working in the downtown because we’re right on Victoria and King there. So that’s kind of our goal. There’s lots of great board game cafes out there, but we strive to be that little bit more, the next evolution of what a board game cafe could even be.
Jason Bavington (04:12):
So did you have to do a lot of community support initiatives once Covid hit and your entire clan of people who could no longer come and visit you, who were, you know, crying themselves to sleep at night. How did you guys handle transitioning during Covid and what have you done to keep connecting with your community and supporting them and how have you been able to serve them? What have you been able to do for them?
Cameron Shaver (04:34):
Yeah, it’s tough because a location like ours definitely generates a very tight-knit group because we have the same people coming out to play games together. Or, you know, our weekly D and D campaigns that happen at all of our locations, that’s a tight knit group of people. So it’s not just like a regular restaurant, where you go for great food but you don’t necessarily have that sense of community. So we’re unique in that situation and we’ve really been trying to keep connected to the community. Wwe’ve shifted. We have weekly trivia’s that we’ve shifted online. So we are doing some online trivia-type stuff. We are connecting still with lots of … we have a great Magic the Gathering community. We made a video series for them. Looking at a pick-and-pass type thing.
Cameron Shaver (05:22):
And then we also are still looking to kind of get the food out there with some unique food kits that we’re putting together. So not just delivery of food, but delivery of a kit that you can do as a group, as a family and assemble it together. And we’ve put together videos as well. So it’s not just that we have written instructions but you can also cook along with our chef,. So we have multi-camera angles above the things. You can see how they’re kneading the dough or are turning the slow cooker apple butter. And so it’s really the whole goal of a lot of what we’re doing is how can we keep you engaged and occupied and the family together having fun or connecting with each other. So we’re offering board game pickup and delivery because that’s a great opportunity to do those sorts of things. And we’re really focusing on the group games that you can play together.
Jason Bavington (06:14):
Nice. So keep us all busy while we’re still stuck at home. And so in terms of the kits, I think that’s a really unique thing that you’ve done because not only have you offered a food product that people can take in and eat and create for themselves, but you’ve turned it into, and you layered into that and meshed into that, an experience, which I think is the next level of, interaction and value-offering that a business such as yours can do for your customers. Because yeah, you know, we can just order something to fill liourke tummies and have something fun to eat. But, to turn it into an experience that we can share with our friends or family that’s home with us. We can share with you guys, because you said you had the videos and I think it just makes it a lot more fun, right? So you’ve added that extra layer, which I think is a really, really good strategy on your part.
Cameron Shaver (07:09):
And that’s really at the core of The Round Table. It’s, “yeah, we have board games.” But, you are also playing D and D in a castle setting, right? It’s adding that layer to things. And…I have one question Cameron. Sure, sure.
Jason Bavington (07:27):
If I come out like, you know, once Covid is done and we come and play D and D and stuff, where do we park our dragons?
Cameron Shaver (07:33):
Well, we do have a pretty strict house policy of no dragons or magical items, but the thing that we do have plenty of dragon parking on the roof. So you’ve got to have them tied up outside. We do have, you know, little water bowls and little butane bowls for them and things like that. So, you’re welcome to bring your dragon, but we just have a strict no-dragon policy. The scales. It’s just health and safety and you know. City bylaws. Yeah. Dang Guelph like, “can’t have dragons…”
Jason Bavington (08:01):
Mayor Guthrie, like, seriously help us out with our dragon management policies. Please!
Cameron Shaver (08:06):
Right?! Come on. If they’re well-trained, there’s no reason. I just, yeah, so we’re going to look at lobbying to change that bylaw.
Jason Bavington (08:12):
Oh, that’s cool. So yeah, so you have the kits. Tell me a little more about the kits. Do you have one kit? Do you have a few kits? How do people go about picking up a kit? How does that work?
Cameron Shaver (08:25):
So we have multiple kits. We have three on the go right now. We have a Lembas bread kit, which is a spiced Canadian bannock bread. And you get everything you need to make that, along with it. We have a maple panacotta with a Canadian maple syrup. And then we also have our slow cooker, apple butter, which is all available there. And you get everything you need delivered right to you. We do deliveries every Saturday and you can also have, there’s also curbside pickup available as well. Okay. And all of that is all through Waterloo region. And we also have some, we’re rolling out some cocktail videos, too. So just how to make some unique cocktails or some of the things that we do in-house. So, just again, something to do. Something new to try. Something fun to engage with.
Jason Bavington (09:10):
Nice. So I know when I first stumbled across your kits, it was via Facebook. So I think whatr we’ll do for everyone now is we’re just going to go to Facebook and load up your page and you can just walk us… helps to click the right thing. You can just walk us through how to go about connecting with your kits. Sure. Great. So, “The Round Table”. Hey, I must’ve looked you up recently. Look at that. Fairly recently. Checking in regularly, that’s fantastic. I swear I didn’t do it before the call. Yeah, yeah. Sounds like you’re doing your research or something. Yeah. Okay. So here we go.
Cameron Shaver (09:45):
So, we have our food kits available through our online store, as well as board games. You have some collectibles and other fun things and coffee as well. We’ve partnered with Cavan Coffee to have locally roasted beans all for delivery. So we can just click through to your story here. Yeah, yeah. And there’s actually an extra step here because, for some reason, Facebook and Instagram doesn’t like Square stores. I can’t seem to post a link directly to our Square store. So I have to take you through this other thing. So I apologize for making you, the customer, do an extra click here. But if you scroll down you’ll find a link to our actual store there. An explanation on why I had to make you do that. I put in tickets. It’s very, very odd. But it’s a Square store, roundtablewaterloo.square.site and you’ll be able to click through right on that.
Jason Bavington (10:33):
Cameron Shaver (10:35):
So really what we’re doing now is kind of like I’m trying to recreate The Round Table experience online. Everything that we offer in-house I’m trying to put online. So there’s our meal kits right there. We’re also offering local artisan hot sauces with Pepper North. We have tons of board games listed and if you’re after a board game and you don’t see it listed here, shoot me an email. My email’s right there. I’ll check if it’s in stock, get you a price, and list it on the site so you can buy it right there. And, you have Fireball Island! Like, I have been looking for that game for ever. Right? Like this is a reissue of the game and it has all these extensions and add-ons. It’s, it’s brilliant. It’s super fun. Highly recommend it.
Jason Bavington (11:17):
That’s fantastic. So everything from food to board games you can click through, add to our cart, we can pick it up curbside.
Cameron Shaver (11:24):
And one of the things that we’re also trying to do here as well, if you scroll down, we do have gift certificates as well for when things get running. You can get a 10% bonus if you purchase one over $50. But we’re also looking to support local artisans as well. Here’s our Round Table coffee. Three different options of fresh locally roasted beans, again we’re partnering with Cavan Coffee on that. So lots of different fun flavour profiles there. We have some of our merchandise, our awesome metal D20’s there. Just some Round Table fun stickers. Now here, we’re trying to support local artisans as well because a lot of that has shut down too. So a lot of local artisans we would have come in, do workshops in-house and whatnot, and we would have some of their wares for sale.
Cameron Shaver (12:07):
So we’ve listed them here on the website. And again, a large, massive lion’s share of these things go to the artisan themselves. So again, this is our way of kind of trying to get to supporting the community as well. Because local artisans, we had all these workshops booked and now we had to cancel them all. So we’re offering their unique wares online. So some cute little bowtruckles there. That’s an artisan from Waterloo. We have some art from Pop Fiction Art, some super unique things. They’re based out of London. Lots of local Guelph things there. Yeah. Some amazing … there’s all sorts of fandoms to support here.
Jason Bavington (12:50):
That’s really great that you’ve been able to continue those partnerships with artists. And it’s all about that community that I think that’s one of the most important things that we can continue to reinforce during these challenging times is working together and partnering together. And, everyone, I’ve said this in previous video blogs that we’ve done, but I’m not a fan of the competitive model at all. I think the collaborative model has served many other people in many other communities for far longer than the competitive model has. And I think the more we collaborate, we all collectively raise ourselves higher, which I think is a key strategy and approach getting us through this. So I definitely celebrate the work that you’re doing with the artists. With Cavan Coffee. Those guys are really cool too. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. Very nice. Okay. And then so people order the board games. Do they have to return it? How does that work?
Cameron Shaver (13:46):
So you order your board game here. You can order it for local pickup, curbside pickup, which is at our Guelph location. And that happens every Saturday from two ’til six. Or you could order it for delivery. Delivery is $3, just to kind of cover gas for driving around and whatnot. And you can, again, pile anything you want into that order. So if you want to turn it into a whole evening, you can get a board game and a food kit. And, you know, make a whole new evening out of it. Very nice. Yeah. And that’s why we’re kind of offering some of these things. Like the apple butter is so great for Mother’s Day, right? And some of the art is so great, or some of the pendants that we offer from local artisans. We have some really nice chainmail earrings and chainmail bracelets and chainmail necklaces that are totally unique gifts that could work so well for Mother’s Day and whatnot. And so we can connect you with those things. Get you a unique great gift and deliver it to your door. Again, with keeping you home, keeping everyone safe, keeping the community together. And by doing that, you’re supporting us as a local business. You’re supporting local artisans. And you’re getting something totally unique.
Jason Bavington (14:57):
And that’s a great way to keep local small businesses and local small artisans going is … with the shutdown of Farmer’s Markets and all of these events and it doesn’t look like this stuff is going to resurface anytime soon. So finding new ways to help and support the artisans to get their work out there, to share it with the community and then offer these ways that the community can, you know, “take a look we have to offer”. Pick it up, whether it’s for themselves or whether its for a gift for others. Again, it just helps supporting our local small community in each of our individual communities, which is very, very important at all times. And especially now.
Cameron Shaver (15:37):
Totally. And it’s just a win across the board, right? The only loss in any of this is my time to list these things, right? So that’s the loss. If, let’s say we never sell any of them, that’s okay. But hey, look at that. You’ve now seen artisan mail. You’ve now seen a level of blacksmith kind of thing, 1 11 blacksmith. So you get to those things. They get out there and it’s just a win for everyone. And if we do happen to sell, great. Yeah, these are great too. You know, Hey, look, are you stressed? Are you’re looking to take your frustration out. You can order yourself some, the legend of Zelda vases. Give them a little smash there. Or make them be decorative. You never know what’s inside. That’s fantastic. Yeah. So you can get the whole set of three there, if you want. Or just one at a time.
Jason Bavington (16:24):
Very cool. Yeah. Unique things that you’re not going to find on Amazon. Well, that’s the thing. And Amazon is great for some things. Supporting local community, not so much. So whatever we’re able to do to reach that goal is really, really important. So you’ve had quite some time now to assess the results of your pivoting through your kits and through these partnerships. Now that we’ve been in this for a while now, unfortunately. But also fortunately because experience and hindsight is 20/20, as we know. Are there things that you would change next time going forward? What have you learned? Is there any cool experience that has come out of the whole thing? What’s been your take on having to have pivoted and kind of restructure in this way?
Cameron Shaver (17:09):
Well, we’re actually really taking as much advantage of this as possible. Like, you know, we’re not viewing this as…well, it’s obviously a negative. But we’re trying to find the silver lining here. With this shutdown, we’re able to get things done faster and more efficiently than if the stores were running and whatnot. We’ve done extreme cleans. We’ve reorganized and made things much more efficient. We’re getting, we’re using that time to get systems into place. So, we want things back. We want our employees back. We want to support them as much as possible. But when all this is over, we’re really going to treat this as a grand opening of a brand new restaurant. With new systems in place. Everything is reorganized. Everything is redone so that we can launch strong. And that’s really kind of the key here.
Cameron Shaver (17:58):
So we’re, it’s a terrible situation for a lot of people. And we’re looking for every positive we can make out of this to come back stronger. So we can hire more people. So we can be as busy as ever. So we can get more cooks on there. I think looking back at it, we … and the great thing with this is all these changes are going to stay in place. Food kits, aren’t going to go away. You’ll be able to order a food kit at any time when this is over. So it’ll create another revenue stream to insulate us next time if this happens again. I think one of the things that we, again, this comes down to man time and hours, is that I would have liked to have seen us launch and we can still do this, but look at more raw food kits.
Cameron Shaver (18:38):
So, like, vegetable boxes. Or leveraging our position as a vendor who can order huge amounts of food at a lower cost and passing that along. Because I found, personally, I can buy all the frozen food that I need. I can do order pickups. But it’s the fresh stuff that I keep running out of that I keep having to go out to get at the grocery store. So if we can add that into delivery, that’d be amazing. So that’s something we still may launch. But we need to kind of ramp up awareness of the fact that we have this online store, which we’ve been working, we’re doing a lot of strategic advertising with that, with the limited funds that we can. And, our Round Table family has been great. Lots of people have been sharing this stuff. Lots of people have been liking and commenting on social media and on Google and it’s just been amazing. That’s a huge support.
Jason Bavington (19:27):
Very cool. So, as I alluded to at the beginning of the call, I kind of stumbled across your kits via a Facebook ad. Can you tell me a little bit of your experience working with Facebook ads? Advantages, disadvantages. What your experiences are. I know that there’s a lot of small business owners that will likely watch this video who have not yet had experience with Facebook ads. Google ads, maybe. But Facebook ads, probably not. And you know, everyone doesn’t want to lose their shirt, right? Facebook’s will very, very quickly and very, very happily take your money. Tell us how you strategized that and what your experience has been.
Cameron Shaver (20:01):
So, love it or hate it with social media, it’s something that people can discover very, very much on their own. A lot of people are scrolling on their phones right now, right? Like as you had mentioned, you’ve kind of gone through your entire Netflix library, right? And the great thing about Facebook advertising is it links right in with Instagram advertising and you can be ultra highly targeted with that. I’ve cast a pretty wide net for these kits because a food kit will probably appeal to anyone. But our D and D nights or say, like, Firefly trivia or Doctor Who trivia. If I go to advertise that it’s very focused. We’re, fortunate because Magic the Gathering, we also sell Magic the Gathering cards as part of our trading post, kind of sister business is having a huge launch, which is really, really big.
Cameron Shaver (20:50):
So we’ve been doing a lot of targeted advertising with that specifically to match the Gathering players. And the key is you don’t have to spend big money. A dollar or two a day will get you traction. Will get eyes on your ads and that’s sometimes that’s good enough. We’ve also done advertising with Google and that’s a little more expensive a day. And I find it’s not, we do get click throughs, but I love the visual elements. Like the ad you saw for the meal kits, integrating motion and video and all that. I try to make it eye catching. Google doesn’t always show the image with it. I’m just, I’m very image driven. One of the things that I wanted to really explore were like Taboola and Outbrain as well, but their minimum spend a day is $25, which at this moment in time is a lot for us.
Cameron Shaver (21:41):
So that’s something down the road. I would love to see that. Because you can do targeting via postal codes with them. You can get right down to that. So if we want to like, because I was looking at it to boost up our Waterloo location and really advertise our awesome pub food there to students. So I was looking at targeting ads just to students within a four block radius of it. Wow. Yeah. So, but again, you’re paying $25 a day. But those ads are served on the Huffington Post and all these other websites that you may be visiting, not just social media.
Jason Bavington (22:16):
Interesting. So for a dollar or two a day on Facebook and Instagram, you guys have had success with that?
Cameron Shaver (22:22):
Yeah, there’s been traction. We’re just working on and so one of the things that I’ve realized right now is I’ve let the ads run a little long as they are. I think I need to shift them, shift the images more. I can keep the message the same, but if I shift the messages more or shift the images more, I think it’ll catch more eyes. And I’ve realized that now in marketing that I need to keep that fresh or have multiple images that are going to get served all the time. Because even if you didn’t click through, you’ll say, “Hey, oh yeah, Round Table. I remember seeing them.” It’s so much about brand recognition. And it’s really funny and it’s become really clear because our newest location is at the corner of King and Victoria. 1 Victoria street. So right on the corner there. Huge transit hub. Lots of people pass it and I’ll do a convention or Comicon I’m chatting with people and people will say, “Oh, have you been to The Round? Have you heard of that? They’ll be like, “No. Oh wait, aren’t you guys on King and Victoria?” So just that going by
Jason Bavington (23:23):
brand recognition and awareness. Brand recognition and visuals are highly important. You know, that’s why we do video blogs and I’m not going to write all this down, right? Because we’re highly visually oriented. So speaking of visuals, my last question for you, Cameron, is like, tell me more about that three inch hole in your chest.
Cameron Shaver (23:42):
Well, you see I was a, you know, doing a weapons overseas and it went South and I had to build an arc reactor in a cave.
Jason Bavington (23:50):
Do you know this guy named Tony? Have you heard of him?
Cameron Shaver (23:52):
So Tony and I were hanging out the other day and. Yeah, no. This is just kind of like my Round Table management polo, which I wore. But I happen to have a white virtual background. I mean, I’m at The Round Table right now and it just kind of pulled this and like, you know, kind of pulls the thing. And so it’s kind of chroma keying off the white, which is, yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And it’s funny how fast and easy this technology has kind of taken hold. I remember doing some earlier video work a couple of years ago and just trying to get the lighting on a muslin green-screen backdrop, right? To pull it correctly was just, as an amateur, difficult. And now I’m like.
Jason Bavington (24:32):
Yeah, click. Exactly. Yeah, this technology is incredible. And as we’ve seen with The Round Table, they really, really leverage this technology in every way possible to basically have the technology serve them. So, in recap what you guys did was you started to offer these kits. You offered them online via your store. You’ve been doing Facebook advertising campaigns, not for $10 a day, not for $20 a day but for a buck or two a day. Which, I think we can all find. We can all find 10 bucks here and there. You know, we can all find 10 bucks. I think we can do that. I think to keep our stores going and to keep our presence in front of the eyes of our audience, we can probably find that $10. At least for a little while. And that’s all that it took you guys. What you’ve also done is you set up the store on Stripe. Store looks great. Stripe is extremely turnkey, makes it really, really easy to work with.
Jason Bavington (25:20):
And you’ve partnered with other artisans, including Cavan Coffee and other local artisans on your site to keep this community support going. And you know, people might come in for a board game or they might go, “Oh hey, that’s a really cool pendant!” or “Yeah, I need some of those vases and just smash them against the wall”. That’s really, really fantastic. So, I celebrate all the work that you guys have been doing. Clearly you guys are finding success and you’re working with this creativity to continue to explore, to see how you can continue to further your reach. You know, being your example of trying to reach those Waterloo students. I think it’s great. Creativity is the ultimate resource and the more you work at it, the more you work it at, you will find some that will work for your business and for your community. So keep working at everyone. Keep trying. Keep pushing forward. Don’t give up. As long as you’re practicing self care, do not give up. Keep going. You will figure out a way. So again, Jason with DUX — Your Local City Guide, on today with Cameron, The Round Table. Thanks a lot. Cameron. That was a lot of fun!
Cameron Shaver (26:25):
Yeah, yeah, no problem. Thanks for having us on. And we will continue the battle here as we move forward.
Jason Bavington (26:33):
So everyone, if you’re watching this video anywhere else but on our website, head on over to dux.city. Click on the blog and you’ll find a link for this post for The Round Table. We’ll post links to the Facebook page and directly to the store so you can check out all the goodies there. Take out a kit. Try some Lembas bread. And you know, you’re gonna wow your friends that you were actually able to score Elvin bread during a Covid crisis. Like who would have thought. These are the kinds of stories that we’re going to tell our grandkids. I’m pretty sure. For sure. Well, thank you so much. I love a great conversation. Thank you very much for having me on. My pleasure. So take care everyone and keep sharing and supporting your local goodness. Cheers. Cheers.