A little slice of Montreal arrives in Victoria on Monday as breakfast giant Cora opens its first Vancouver Island restaurant in downtown Victoria.
Cora, a chain of 132 breakfast eateries across Canada, will open at 850 Douglas St. at the site of another famous breakfast joint. Smitty’s called the address home for 40 years.
The new restaurant has been a few years in the works and marks the next phase of Cora expansion.
“Victoria is kind of the latest and western-most point for us ... it makes us truly coast-to-coast,” said Cora marketing consultant Jaime Christensen, who said the chain is looking at more locations in the Lower Mainland and the B.C. Interior, and has an eye on U.S. expansion.
“That will come sooner rather than later,” she said.
The focus now is the Victoria location, the sixth Cora restaurant in B.C.
“Victoria is a little different from what we normally do as it is a downtown location,” said Christensen.
The Cora chain tends to set up shop in strip malls and retail plazas.
“We tend to look for daytime pulls, places that would have a large daytime draw. We look for high traffic and high business density,” Christensen said.
While the location may be a little different, the restaurant will be much like every other Cora location in terms of decor and design.
The 3,500-square-foot space will offer seating for 148 and be staffed by 35.
What Victoria may pose for the big chain is a challenge from a slew of restaurants like John’s Place, Floyd’s Diner, Blue Fox Cafe, Cup of Joe Cafe and Jam that have made names for themselves with breakfast menus.
When asked if Cora had any trepidation walking into the Victoria market, Christensen said there’s always a degree of concern in a new location. “There’s competition everywhere, but we are a chain that we feel what we do we do very well and we are well known across Canada, though less so in the West,” she said. “But we have a fair amount of pride and faith in our brand that when people try us and get to know what we are, what we do and the history behind the brand that we don’t fail to establish a following wherever we go.”
Christensen said the concept tends to work because of its focus on healthy options — none of their restaurants have a deep fryer — and lavish fruit plates.
“There’s also a bit of French flair to the food,” she said, noting the crepes and French toast is a nod to its Montreal roots.
Cora Tsouflidou originated the concept in 1987 when, as a single mother of three in need of a career, she bought an abandoned diner on Côte-Vertu Boulevard in Montreal’s St. Laurent area and focused on breakfast.
The menu has grown to include more than 180 items and many of them are inspired by customers and staff requests, and often bear the name of the inspiration.
While the restaurant will open Monday, a grand opening is set for Jan. 31 and will include founder Tsouflidou as well as local owner-franchisees Nicholas and Fatima Ritter.
On Jan. 20, Cora will hold a special friends and family day where all proceeds raised will be donated to the Victoria chapter of the B.C. SPCA.
Cora will be open Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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