Purpose and Cora's Restaurant · ShiftWorkPlace

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Spirit of Work Episode 3: Purpose and Cora’s Restaurant

Purpose and Cora’s Restaurant

When a workplace has a clear sense of purpose informing its reason for being, human activity surrounding the work environment has an infusion of power. I have been using Cora’s restaurant as an example of purpose and branding for my business students. 

Cora’s restaurant: Clear purpose, clean branding

Cora’s Restaurant is a breakfast establishment that grew from one location in Quebec to 130 locations across North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. It started with the purpose of “promoting the importance of breakfast”. Five memorable words!

Promoting the importance of breakfast has served to guide all of Cora’s decisions about the restaurant, the growth of the restaurant, her staff, and how customers are treated, and how they treat the environment.  Cora serves colorful, nutritious, and tasty breakfasts to help people start the day with energy and with joy. 

Their logo is a smiling sun. They partner with the Breakfast Club of Canada to provide children in Canada with a nutritious breakfast to start the day with brain fuel and donate a dollar amount to the Breakfast Club for each type of meal ordered in their restaurants. 

Restaurant decisions are based on local food sourcing, using only biodegradable packaging for their takeout, and partnering with other restaurants who support environmental consciousness to raise the industry standards.  In their training, they engage servers to learn about creating a warm, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere for each other and for customers.

Creativity, work life balance, paid training, and advancement opportunities demonstrate congruence between their internal and external business processes.  You can tell I’m a big fan of Cora’s restaurants.  Because as an organization, Cora is clear about its purpose. It ensures that all activities align with that purpose while encouraging growth and creative potential. 

In my book, The Spirit of Work, I wrote that lack of purpose in an organization results in scattered and deluded efforts that cause the workforce to regard initiative with cynicism and suspicion. 

“Lack of purpose in an organization results in scattered and deluded efforts that cause the workforce to regard initiative with cynicism and suspicion.” 

Finding your business purpose

But it isn’t easy to find purpose, either personally or collectively in an organization.  For Cora, a newly divorced mother of three, it emerged when she sold her house to buy a small snack bar  to feed the family. Her purpose began to unfold as her creative, nutritious and tasty snacks attracted long lineups first thing in the morning.

Realizing she had a gift for early morning foods, she developed the idea into the first Cora’s Breakfast restaurant, with a clear purpose: promoting  the importance of breakfast. Seven years later, Cora and her three kids were running the nine restaurants in Greater Montreal, and it has grown from there to the multinational, multi million dollar franchise that it is today, continuing to be based on its clear values. 

Purpose, play and joy for healthy workplaces

Purpose is something that is characteristic of children’s play. They dedicate themselves to creating, learning about, practicing, or enhancing some aspect of their activity. This gives them energy and a sense of joy, but they can also delight in a purpose intended to bother or harm others, and they throw themselves into it with the same intensity to finding out what buttons they can push and how to control the people around them. 

We don’t lose these two aspects of purpose in adulthood. Purpose unfolds as we marry our talents and powers with the need around us and engage others in the collective pursuit of that purpose.  Purpose is inspiring. But it can inspire equally to contribute to what is beneficial or harmful.  Purpose is a fuel, but the direction of the fueled vehicle has to embrace an even higher power to nourish rather than to starve, to expand rather than to constrict, and to flourish rather than to wither the people, places, and things it touches.

How are you choosing to use your purpose? 

Just think about inspiring leaders who have done great good, and those who’ve been equally inspiring to do great evil.  We can take purpose. And use it as a tool for one or the other side for the dark or for the light.  So to summarize, clear purpose fuels and inspires us to do great things.  Purpose, however, can be fueled  by a desire to harm as much as it can be fueled by a desire to help. 

When we look at the example of Cora’s Restaurant, we can clearly see that the purpose of the restaurant to provide nourishing breakfasts to people so they can start their day off right  has continued to grow other values.  And those values continue to inform what they do for the betterment of the world through better breakfasts. 

Reflection questions from Cora’s purposeful restaurant example

So, before we delve into the next topic, let’s pause to ask a few questions about purpose using Cora’s Restaurant as our springboard.  

  1. Like Cora, in what way has your sense of personal growth,  your personal purpose grown through having to face a difficulty in your life?  
  2. How did this purpose grow or shrink when you created something new and tested it out with others? 
  3. And finally, if you’re in a leadership position in your organization,  what is the founding principle? Can you state it in 5-7 memorable words? 

Purpose is a chapter in my book!

If you’re finding these episodes helpful, you can purchase the book, The Spirit of Work, Timeless Wisdom, Current Realities, online on Amazon.  On Barnes and Noble or directly from my website, https://shiftworkplace.com/the-spirit-of-work/.


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