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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:19 pm
 


$1:
It’s Saturday morning and my father-in-law Gord is in town to help with our renovations, so I’ve gone to Tim Hortons to pick up coffee and something to eat. Right away you know that this story is at least partially crap.

I’m a snooty food writer. So just like every politician stopping into Tim’s for a “double-double” on the campaign trail, I’m faking a bit, engaging in the cynical populism of sham fealty to Tim Hortons.

That presumed, folksy simplicity is why the menu at Tim Hortons these days is so strange, so far off from their successful, strategic targeting of working-class Canadians. Belgian-waffle breakfast sandwich? Omelette bites? Salted-caramel iced capp?

Didn’t Tim Hortons used to sell coffee and doughnuts? How did they lose their way?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a waffle sandwich. Done well, it could be a transcendent contrast of crispy and creamy, salty and sweet. Here at Tim’s, under the demands of streamlined preparation and service, it’s an unholy thing—ingredients cooked long in advance and kept in limbo between life and death by warming trays. When ordered, precooked discs of egg and sausage are removed from their resting chambers and bundled with processed cheese between two small waffles. The result? A sweet sponge that contains 18 grams of sugar, the equivalent of four teaspoons—you may as well start your day with a Snickers bar.

But this is not a mom-and-pop store built by and for your community. Tim Hortons is the second-largest coffee chain in the world, with franchise operations in countries like Spain, China and the United Arab Emirates. It’s owned by the massive hospitality company, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), a subsidiary of Brazilian-American investment firm 3G Capital. In May, RBI announced its plans to expand Tim Hortons’ footprint, adding 14,000 new Tim’s, Popeye’s and Burger King locations over the next eight to 10 years, going from a mind-blowing 26,000 to 40,000 eateries globally.*

And though we see Tim Hortons flailing about, composing menus that read like a food-trend Mad Libs—Mango Creamy Chill, Beyond Sausage Farmer’s Wrap, Brown Butter and Sea Salt Dream Doughnut—this is not aimless change for the sake of change. It’s a company going through the necessary experimentation to adapt to a marketplace that’s experiencing massive upheaval due to third-party food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Foodora that have identified millennials’ thirst for convenience, as well as looming automation across the food industry as a whole.

Last week, Tim Hortons opened their first-ever ‘innovation café,’ a boutique joint in Toronto’s financial district, replete with gourmet doughnuts, “Italian” muffuletta sandwiches and “nitrogen-infused” cold brew. Nearly double the price of their standard doughnuts, these fancy two-dollar doughnuts might be anathema to their core consumer. But we already know this isn’t for them.

It’s about targeting the demographic that will happily pay five dollars for a luxury doughnut if it’s considered a desirable, shareable experience; customers who will queue, take a picture and promote the product on social media. The question is whether the doughnut is any good.

People love to score points off of Tim Hortons coffee, either dunking on it for being bad, or pandering to a wider audience by praising it as the best. I have no dog in that fight. I do believe, however, that debate over Tim Hortons coffee is a missed opportunity to point out that their doughnuts are terrible.

The basic chocolate-dipped is gummy and tasteless. In a blind taste test, one would never guess that the brown coating is supposed to be chocolate. The upscale doughnuts are exactly as good as the price point suggests, which means they’re better, but still lousy. They’re fresh, and would have to be, given the volume the prototype location is doing. And the glazes and frostings have creamier textures than the standard Tim Hortons shellac. But the promised, delicate flavours—brown butter, vanilla bean—are more present on the menu than the nose or tongue. You have to look back at the names to remember what you’re supposed to be tasting.

Fast food used to offer price, speed and convenience; an outpost in every neighbourhood was a selling point. But in the last five years, food-delivery apps put an end to that. Third-party apps have made restaurant food available with zero effort, devaluing the ubiquity and speed that the Tim Hortons chain once held as an advantage.

If fast-food companies can’t be faster and easier, they have two choices: be cheaper or better. But with the cost of ingredients, fuel and labour constantly rising, they can’t lower prices. So they chase trends and offer the kind of Insta-bait-type food that gets people in the door these days. I can’t help but think of Taco Bell’s current campaign on “chachos” (nachos with pieces of fried chicken in place of chips). One thing’s for sure: it’s not food, it’s marketing.

How didn’t we see this coming, anyway? If we’re going to be mad at Tim Hortons for these outlandish menu expansions, our outrage is as manufactured as the company’s Canadian image.

Tim Hortons hasn’t sold coffee and doughnuts exclusively since before 1981, when muffins and cookies were introduced, followed by croissants (1983), chilli (1985), bagels (1995), lattes (1997) and so on. These are additions, not changes. They don’t stop anyone from buying and enjoying the original products. The 2014 sale to 3G however, was more than cosmetic; Tim Hortons had plans to scale. After 3G acquired Burger King in 2010, the merged companies rebranded as RBI, which then gobbled up Popeye’s. The current plan for Tim Hortons, which includes building 1,500 locations in China alone, would be unthinkable without the backing of RBI.

While marketing themselves as compassionately Canadian abroad (the equivalent of the American traveller who sews a Canadian flag onto their backpack), at home, the strategy is carnival food to lure in rubes and merciless management to cut costs.

In response to a minimum wage raise in Ontario, some franchise owners cut employee benefits and paid breaks. Following public anger, the Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents some Canadian Tim Hortons franchise owners, defended the measures based on head office’s refusal to let franchisees raise prices. Worse, a Cobourg location that eliminated paid breaks and asked employees to pay for uniforms, is owned by the son and daughter of founders Ron Joyce and Tim Horton. That plays less like the benevolent supporter of children’s hockey teams and more like out-of-touch royalty.

Last year, Tim Hortons reported its eighth consecutive quarter of falling same-store sales; a measure used on locations that have been open for a year or more. That’s not good for franchisees, who invest in a location and fork over a percentage of sales under the belief that the company’s reputation and guidance will guarantee revenue.

The degrading reputation of the brand, brought about by penny-pinching cruelty to employees, was entirely predicted, based on 3G Capital’s reputation for cutting costs at the companies they purchase.

Consumers do have short memories, so the damage may not be irreparable. But the incident has ended the suspension of disbelief that’s maintained the company’s image as “Canadian,” the benevolence that “every cup tells a story.” In the long term, I suspect none of this will matter. The scaling of Tim Hortons cannot outdo the scaling of food-delivery technology, as well as the resulting job loss as the fast-food industry moves towards automation.

McDonald’s recently announced a revamp of their menu that includes a fine-tuning of hamburgers: changing bun dimensions to retain heat better, more sauce, cooking patties in smaller batches and pressing down less to retain juices. Have they been making burgers wrong for 64 years? It seems ill-advised, for a company famous for its assembly-line cooking—and one that’s feeling the pinch of high-labour costs at that—to make its menu more labour-intensive. Unless they’re betting that humans won’t be cooking it for much longer. (Hint: they’ve been automating cashiers with kiosks since 2015.)

If this seems like science fiction, check out Creator, a San Francisco burger restaurant where all the cooking is done by machine. There are still human staff members to restock the burgerbot with beef, pickles and tomatoes. But the machine, which doesn’t require wages or breaks, slices onions, cooks patties and dispenses burgers. And if you can teach a robot to cook burgers, you can get it to make tacos, lattes and doughnuts, too. Spyce, in Boston, is already taking this idea to the next level with an automated kitchen.

Within five years, as these devices are adapted to mix batter, pour a double-double and assemble a Beyond Sausage Farmer’s Wrap, jobs will disappear by the thousands. And with them, any romantic pretense that a chain the size of Tim Hortons represents working-class Canadians. When that happens, they will need to be about something else.


https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/six-millennials-visited-the-tim-hortons-innovation-cafe/


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:15 am
 


I stopped going to Tim's a few years ago. I think they changed the coffee after RBI took over and it just is not that good anymore. McDonalds and A&W have better coffee. Tim's doughnuts have gotten sweeter (closer to a Crispy Creme blechh) and as the particle mentions the food is pretty bad.

Compare their approach to A&W with fresh cooked egg breakfasts and you can see why sales are dropping.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 6:02 am
 


How is this 'losing it's way'? This is Capitalism working as intended.

Tims must increase profit, quarter after quarter. It must meet the expectations of the economists and give the shareholders more value next quarter than it did last quarter. It must do that by offering new products, selling more, and reducing costs, raising prices and by bringing in temporary foreign workers to work cheaper than the locals.

Anyone with some physics knowledge knows that an ever increasing value is an acceleration. And accelerations cannot be maintained without an ever increasing input. You can't forever accelerate the input with a finite amount of resources, such as food and population. The Earth is also a finite resource.

This is why a lot of people have seen that uncontrolled Capitalism is unsustainable.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:38 am
 


I used to go there to buy fucking donuts. Now you're lucky if there's ANY of the prefrozen half cooked reheated lumps on the rack. Sad thing is in the boonies Robin's has disappeared, there's no Krispy Kreme and all the small town bakeries have gone tits up.
And Timmies coffee never was any good. Hot, that's all. Just so fucking hot you'll be at least 100km away before you can even sip it and think of bringing it back!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:38 pm
 


herbie herbie:
I used to go there to buy fucking donuts. Now you're lucky if there's ANY of the prefrozen half cooked reheated lumps on the rack. Sad thing is in the boonies Robin's has disappeared, there's no Krispy Kreme and all the small town bakeries have gone tits up.
And Timmies coffee never was any good. Hot, that's all. Just so fucking hot you'll be at least 100km away before you can even sip it and think of bringing it back!

Well, I rarely eat donuts and never drink coffee, but I drink a lot of tea and their steeped tea is much better than anyone else’s that can be gotten in a drive through. They also serve oatmeal that is only half assed bad. Breakfast!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:45 pm
 


Haven't been in a Timmies in years and the only donuts I buy are the freshly baked ones at the market.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:50 pm
 


I pop into Timmies once in a while for a coffee or donut, and also for a rare breakfast. The thing I don't understand about them right now is why they need to try to grab every damn piece of the market all of a sudden.

They have milkshakes now, chicken sandwiches, slushies, burgers (of all things), and even potato wedges. Whatever happened to Timmies being a coffee/donut/breakfast place? It seems they have gone full McDonald's and are trying to get a piece of everything, and it's very perplexing to the average consumer.

I would think they they should do what they do best, and do it well rather than try to have everything under the sun in their restaurants.

-J.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:08 am
 


herbie herbie:
I used to go there to buy fucking donuts. Now you're lucky if there's ANY of the prefrozen half cooked reheated lumps on the rack. Sad thing is in the boonies Robin's has disappeared, there's no Krispy Kreme and all the small town bakeries have gone tits up.
And Timmies coffee never was any good. Hot, that's all. Just so fucking hot you'll be at least 100km away before you can even sip it and think of bringing it back!


Timmies killed off all the competition here too (bye bye Country Style, Sir Donut, Robin's , etc.), and now on the odd occasion I want a doughnut, I go to Sobey's or other grocery store to get a fresh one.



CDN_PATRIOT CDN_PATRIOT:
I pop into Timmies once in a while for a coffee or donut, and also for a rare breakfast. The thing I don't understand about them right now is why they need to try to grab every damn piece of the market all of a sudden.

They have milkshakes now, chicken sandwiches, slushies, burgers (of all things), and even potato wedges. Whatever happened to Timmies being a coffee/donut/breakfast place? It seems they have gone full McDonald's and are trying to get a piece of everything, and it's very perplexing to the average consumer.

I would think they they should do what they do best, and do it well rather than try to have everything under the sun in their restaurants.

-J.


The reason they are changing like that is that they are owned by a foreign company that wants to expand its service options so it is easier to expand internationally...because without that expansion, there is no way to increase its value to shareholders.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:00 pm
 


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:03 pm
 


Timmie's sucks now that it's no longer Canadian owned. :|

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Hortons


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:49 pm
 


llama66 llama66:

That's me....
Hell I remember long before Timmies - Robin's Donuts.
And even before, in the Brentwood Mall when it opened, an automated donut operation you could watch through the window as they floated by, got flipped, iced etc.
God, next thing I'll admit to going to sit with other kids on the sidewalk in front of the TV repair to watch Johnny Quest while the parents shopped.... aaaiiiieee I'm turning into a fossil.....


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 4:10 pm
 


I remember switching from Dunkin' Donuts to Timmies when Dunkin' stopped making donuts onsite. Then Timmies did the same a couple of years later. Now, there are no more Dunkin's in Québec and Timmies has nothing I want to buy.

EDIT: ...and I haven't bought anything Pepperidge Farms in decades.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 4:41 pm
 


raydan raydan:
I remember switching from Dunkin' Donuts to Timmies when Dunkin' stopped making donuts onsite. Then Timmies did the same a couple of years later. Now, there are no more Dunkin's in Québec and Timmies has nothing I want to buy.

EDIT: ...and I haven't bought anything Pepperidge Farms in decades.


The Mint Milano cookies are still the perfect pairing with a decent single malt Scotch. [B-o]


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 4:58 pm
 


Just checked my grocery store online and they don't have those cookies... besides, I'd never buy them and I hate Scotch. They do have those Goldfish cookies and 2 other kinds... and that's it for Pepperidge farms.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:06 pm
 


raydan raydan:
I remember switching from Dunkin' Donuts to Timmies when Dunkin' stopped making donuts onsite. Then Timmies did the same a couple of years later.


I treat myself to a couple of donuts every so often, but I go buy them from the bakery in my local Zehrs supermarket. Totally fresh, way bigger, and way better!


-J.


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