Tim Hortons Restaurants
Not so much held but embraced
****** New Section added: Dark roast and Burger King takeover bid******
Where do I begin. I suppose the best way would be a song but failing that maybe a simple description. Tim Hortons is a culture more than a coffee shop. Tim Hortons is somewhere you go for a coffee because its Tim Hortons not because it's a coffee. The symbol is well known to the extent it feels like it belongs on every street corner in Canada.
Tim Hortons celebrates one of Canada's great sport icons. But please be reassured, this article is NOT a paid advertising commercial for the product. More an expression of love for one of the best cultural symbols to emerge from the corporate world in recent years. Tim Hortons is a product of our times and as such can be objectively portrayed in the context of how it all came about. If you perceive that I am a fan of this chain then I hope you will understand and maybe see it through my eyes.
There are some precious photos here, some taken by pure chance without ever knowing they would be used in this article. My thanks to Tim Hortons for giving me the inspiration to write.
This is my Tim Hortons story of how I came to love it.
All photos courtesy Peter Broster
Tim Hortons logo is copyright Tim Hortons Ltd
Not so much held as Embraced - 2007 Tim Hortons
I have long been dissuaded to include this photo but after five years I think I can be forgiven. The lady is essentially anonymous and it must be said quite pretty anyway. But more importantly it is a photo of my Tim Tower made famous in an extended coffee morning several years ago. The is the CN tower, tower of London and the even the tower of babel so I don't think this is misplaced. A happy moment on a fun holiday.
Tim Cups 2015Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tim Cups 2015
The new cups this year represent the traditional camp day and the new Arabic coffee. Tim Hortons still manages to come out with new and interesting marketing techniques and I hope this continues with the new owners Burger King. Burger King is known for its aggressive takeovers and subsequent cost cutting and there is some concern about how this may affect the various franchise held outlets. So far the expansion and growth of the brand appears unaffected.
2014 Tim Hortons Tour - Some new and some old Tim Hortons visited in two weeks of May 2014Click thumbnail to view full-size
Links to All Things Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons History
A cultural icon in the making
Most people who are familiar with the Tim Hortons franchise are aware of the early history of the firm. Founded in 1964 by Canadian Hockey Player Tim Horton, the first restaurant opened in 1964 and started off small in Hamilton, gradually expanding into Southern Ontario around the area known as the Golden Horseshoe.
By 1974 the franchise had grown to 40 but sadly Tim died in a car crash that year and so his partner Ron Joyce was left with the business. Ron 'ran with it' and the company grew, branching out across Canada. For a period in the 1990s the company was owned by Wendy's Restaurants but by 2006 had regained its independence and aggressively grew to the 3000 plus restaurants it is today.
In recent years Tim Hortons has had two main goals, first to branch out into America where it has had mixed success, but also to become the leading chain of its kind in Canada with at least one outlet in every community. In this they have succeeded and Tims are as ubiquitous as the proud Canadian flag found in many peoples gardens
Tim Hortons Memorabilia on Amazon
50th Anniversary of Tim Hortons
A special day
I was fortunate to be in Canada at the time of the 50th anniversary of the company's founding in 1964. On the actual day, May 17th, I was in the restaurant at Dunham Drive Alliston which is not only a fabulous location but is also one of the newest designs with a galley approach where the customers file down the middle and the tables are to either side. The restaurant also features a patio and is the latest thinking of the company. Also featured are special 50th anniversary cups and a free donut that was made for the day. Of all fast food chains, Tim Hortons is the most forward thinking, they have truly embraced the ideal that a restaurant isn't simply about food and drink, it's about its status and position in society and the role it plays in improving the lives of its customers. People go to Tims because the simply adore it and feel they own it. Long may it continue.
Tim Hortons Cups (The silly section) - A story in a cupClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tim Hortons in America
Expansion into the US market has been problematic due to the overwhelming presence of Tim's main rival Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin is a well established chain in much of America and Tim Hortons has had considerable difficulty expanding. Some outlets have been successful but there have been quite a few closures most notably on Nov 11th 2010 when several were shut down including one of my favourites at North Windham Maine. Happily the Scarborough Maine outlet (shown here) has survived and remains, in my view, the most attractive style of building that Tim Hortons has created. I was so taken with this outlet and so surprised at its discovery that I nearly drove my car off the road when I spotted it on a holiday in the early 2000's.
Tim Hortons Culture
How to get a coffee brand into your head!
What do you do when you have finished your Tim Hortons coffee but you are reluctant to leave? Line your coffee cups up and take photos of them that's what! This is perhaps not the best way to illustrate the cultural side of Tim Hortons but there is a passion in the people who visit the store. My friends refer to it as their Timmies fix and trust me, you don't dis Timmies even if you do frequent those ....other stores!
People look forward to the various designs that come out on the cups and the firm has recognized this. The Grey Cup mug I think was a first but very fitting and available in November when the game is played. Other cups are for the 'roll up the rim' campaign in an effort to help customers through those last days of winter in February. Or the 'Camp Day' cup in support of the summer charity event. Tim's is seen as a good, trustworthy company with a conscience and they are loved for that.
Tim Hortons Franchises
Keeping the supplies moving
Tim Hortons has a huge trucking fleet dedicated to keeping all the franchises fully stocked. Most of the outlets are franchises run by independent business people. There is no margin for error, you cannot have excuses for why the product is not available. The trucks constantly deliver and the machine is 'well oiled'. I saw this truck pull in just as we were leaving and was quite lucky. Normally they are on the road or unloading. This one sat for a photograph as the driver smiled at me as if in a sense of pity or bewilderment. I get that a lot.
Using 'Tim Hortons Trucks' as a keyword in a search engine I have found that I am far from alone in my need to take such photos but until I build up my own library I can only direct the dear reader to use the above query. As soon as I have sufficient I will update this article.
Tim Hortons Charities - Camp Day
While Tim Hortons supports many causes, its flagship event is the early June Camp Day whereby children who live in the city get a free day out in the country where they can play games and take in the fresh air. For many of these kids it is the only time they get out of the city. Customers are asked to support by donation and there is always a sponsored T-shirt which this year (2013) is bright orange!
Tim Hortons Merchandising
Beyond coffee and food
OK so I am a complete suck for ridiculous novelties from corporations. I especially like pins and have well over 100 attached to a message board in my office. But I digress, Starting in 2009-10 Tim's came out with a their first proper Christmas tree hanging ornament. It was a stylized red 'paper' cup of which there are billions made every year. Here was the most iconic symbol of the company in solid plastic and reproduced extremely well. They followed that with a miniature coffee pot and this year there were two, the ceramic mug and three Tim bits piled up as a snowman. Let me tell you people I am hooked.
Tim Hortons have also now created Tim Cards. Re-loadable cash cards that can be used or given as presents. They have proved very popular even though most restaurants now accept contactless credit card transactions. There is a sizable collectors market most specifically on eBay.ca
Tim Hortons today
A future to build
A corporate mantra that I am very familiar with is ''The only constant is change''. This used to annoy me intensely but these days I do see the wisdom of it. When a restaurant has a complete range of food or drink or anything, you would think that would be sufficient. But no, they have to continually keep their clientele engaged with new ideas, the hope that there will be something new in the store. Occasionally such tinkering can be disastrous as when Coca-Cola changed the coke recipe back in the 1980s and had to reintroduce the original as classic coke. Such changes to the basic commodity is made at great peril.
Tims recently re-branded their paper coffee mugs so that the traditional medium became the new small. I was aware of the confusion that this small change caused at the time but because they did not actually eliminate the cup and it was well advertised, the change seems to have succeeded. The lesson here is to by all means introduce new ideas but be careful in tampering with the core products for which the store is known. If a ham sandwich becomes a ham baguette, OK but be very careful what you do with the iconic coffee mug.
On a longer time frame, Tim's restaurants have changed in style. Where they move into a vacated locality the building design is relatively mundane. However a new site allows for a keen corporate eye to make something different and over time you do see new styles emerge. The photo to the right is the newest store design seen in Brampton Ontario. I have quite a few more on my Flickr website if you wish to see how they have evolved.
Tim Hortons Specialties
Ice Capp Chill
Tim Hortons is renowned for innovation within the fast food restaurant industry. They are nearing saturation in the Canadian market with little room to add more profitable locations so the only way to grow is continued expansion in the States and by constant innovation to bring people back in. A company with a great reputation cannot afford to sit on its laurels. So we have the wonderful Tim's Ice Capped Chill which is basically coffee on ice. A lovely drink for the summer. My observation is that this is one of the more popular products they market and this promotion in 2013 was particularly popular. I tried a few but sadly did not win. The promotion was back in the spring but I recommend you try an ice capped chill next time you visit because they are yummy.
My Tim Hortons YouTube video - Goofy video but heartfelt and check out the donut!
Tims Dark Roast
In the news
So while Tim Hortons is now the subject of a takeover bid by the American Burger King Restaurants, innovative products continue unabated. The summer saw the introduction of the dark roast coffee. If anything this coffee is more in line with that found in most of Europe in particular Costa and Cafe Nero in the UK. It will certainly appeal to the European immigrant taste but the jury is out with North Americans used to a lighter, but just a tasty coffee. Tim's has always done very well in Canada but is reaching saturation and has always struggled to grow internationally. Maybe this takeover by Burger King will prove to be the catalyst for international growth.