The building at 65 Walker Street, in the heart of North Sydney’s CBD, looks from the outside like any other anonymous corporate headquarters. But step inside and there is proof that looks can be deceiving. The lobby space includes a collaborative meeting area, a beautiful art gallery space and the bustling ultra-modern Symbol café.
Opened in 2017, Symbol is a café with an altruistic mission at its core: to donate 100% of profits to a range of not-for-profit causes. French born co- founder Nicolas Desgryse took on the North Sydney venture to reproduce the success of his not-for-profit restaurant in Surry Hills. “I think what makes our model a hit and a little different is that we are incorporating giving into everyday actions,” says Nicolas. “Just by popping in and buying a coffee, something that you might have been doing anyway, you are helping others in less fortunate circumstances.”
And the worthiness of the project certainly doesn’t make the menu bland. Based as much on local produce as possible, there are hearty and delicious seasonal salads, sandwiches and sweet treats all served on beautiful crockery. You can take heart that each sandwich or salad you eat is helping with a range of projects, including feeding hungry Australian students through the Eat Up Initiative or planting trees to help offset carbon through Green Fleet.
Degryse’s model continues to thrive. Folonomo (For Love Not Money) in Surry Hills is still going strong and earlier in 2019 he added Portal Café in Matrin Place and Ame Catering to the portfolio. Under the umbrella group of the Pure Collective, Nicolas is continuing to give back in meaningful ways. “One of our initiatives is hiring and training refugees to work in our cafes and restaurants. Many are in limbo on an emergency visa waiting to get help. We can help them feel part of something while they are waiting.”
So if you like your coffee to come with an extra shot of humanity, head to Symbol Café, enjoy the delicious food in the beautiful fit-out and take comfort in the fact that your ordinary activities are doing a world of good.