Tim Hortons corporate headquarters
|Founded||Hamilton, Ontario (17 May 1964)|
|Headquarters||Oakville, Ontario, Canada|
|Number of locations||4,304|
|Key people||Paul D. House
(President and CEO)
|Revenue||C$3.225 billion (2013)|
|Net income||C$424.4 million (2013)|
|Parent||Sale pending to Burger King|
Tim Hortons Inc. (known internationally as Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop) is a Canadian multinational fast casual restaurant known for its coffee and doughnuts. It is also Canada's largest fast food service; at the end of 2013, it had 4,592 restaurants in Canada, 807 in the United States and 38 in the Persian Gulf region. It was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton and Jim Charade, after an initial venture in hamburger restaurants. In 1967, Horton partnered with investor Ron Joyce, who assumed control over operations after Tim Horton died in 1974. Joyce expanded the chain into a multi-million dollar franchise. Charade left the organization in 1966 and briefly returned in 1970 and 1993 through 1996.
Tim Hortons franchises spread rapidly and eventually overtook McDonald's as Canada's largest food service operator. The company opened twice as many Canadian outlets as McDonald's and system-wide sales also surpassed those of McDonald's Canadian operations as of 2002. The chain accounted for 22.6% of all fast food industry revenues in Canada in 2005. Tim Hortons commands 76% of the Canadian market for baked goods (based on the number of customers served) and holds 62% of the Canadian coffee market (compared to Starbucks, in the number two position, at 7%).
On 26 August 2014, Burger King agreed to purchase Tim Hortons for US$11.4 billion; the combined company, which will be majority-owned by Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital and remain based in Oakville, will be the third-largest operator of fast food restaurants in the world.
- 1 History
- 2 Locations
- 3 Partnerships
- 4 Growth
- 5 Menu
- 6 Marketing
- 7 Controversies
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Tim Horton and Ron Joyce
The chain's first store opened in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, under the name "Tim Horton Donuts"; the name was later abbreviated to "Tim Horton's" and then changed to "Tim Hortons" without the possessive apostrophe. The business was founded by Miles G."Tim" Horton, who played in the National Hockey League from 1949 until his death in a car accident in 1974.
Soon after Horton opened the store, he met Ron Joyce, a former Hamilton police constable. In 1965, Joyce took over the fledgling Tim Horton Donut Shop on Ottawa Street North in Hamilton. By 1967, after he had opened up two more stores, he and Tim Horton became full partners in the business. Upon Horton's death in 1974, Joyce bought out the Horton family's shares for $1 million and took over as sole owner of the existing chain of forty stores. Joyce expanded the chain quickly and aggressively in geography and in product selection. The 500th store opened in 1991.
Ron Joyce's aggressive expansion of the Tim Hortons business resulted in major changes to the Canadian coffee and doughnut restaurant market. Many independent doughnut shops and small chains were driven out of business, while Canada's per-capita ratio of doughnut shops surpassed those of all other countries.
The company had originally been incorporated as Tim Donut Limited. By the 1990s, the company name had changed to The TDL Group Ltd. This was an effort by the company to diversify the business, removing the primary emphasis on doughnuts, and continuing the expansion of the menu options as consumer tastes broadened.
Some older locations retain signage with the company's name including a possessive apostrophe, despite the fact that the official styling of the company's name has been Tim Hortons, without an apostrophe, for at least a decade. The company had removed the apostrophe after signs using the apostrophe were considered to be breaking the language sign laws of the Province of Quebec in 1993. The removal of the apostrophe allowed the company to have one common sign image across Canada.
Merger with Wendy's
In 1992, the owner of all Tim Hortons and Wendy's Restaurants in Prince Edward Island, Daniel P. Murphy, decided to open new franchise outlets for both brands in the same building in the town of Montague. Murphy invited Joyce and Wendy's chairman Dave Thomas to the grand opening of the "combo store", where the two executives met for the first time and immediately established a rapport.
Murphy's success with combining coffee and doughnuts with Wendy's fast food led to 8 August 1995 acquisition of and merger with TDL Group by Wendy's International, Inc., an American company. Joyce became the largest shareholder in Wendy's, even surpassing Thomas. TDL Group continued to operate as a separate subsidiary from its head office in Oakville, Ontario, although Joyce eventually retired from active management to pursue other interests.
Under pressure from rival restaurateur Nelson Peltz, in late 2005, Wendy's announced it would sell between 15% and 18% of the Tim Hortons operations in an initial public offering, which was completed on 24 March 2006, and subsequently said it would spin off to shareholders its remaining interest by the end of 2006. Wendy's cited increased competition between the two chains and Tim Hortons' increasing self-sufficiency as reasons for its decision, but the company had been under shareholder pressure to make such a move because of the strength and profitability of the Tim Hortons brand. Peltz in 2008 acquired Wendy's after pressuring them initially to spin off Tim Hortons.
Shares of the company began trading on 24 March 2006, with an initial public offering of C$27 per share, raising over $700 million in the first day of trading. On 24 September 2006, Wendy's spun off the rest of its shares in Tim Hortons, by distributing the remaining 82% to its shareholders. On the same day, Tim Hortons was added to Canada's benchmark stock-market indicator, the S&P/TSX Composite Index, and to the S&P/TSX 60.
Despite maintaining its operational headquarters in Oakville, the spun-off holding company, Tim Hortons Inc., was initially incorporated in Delaware.
On 29 June 2009, Tim Hortons Inc. announced that, pending shareholder approval, the chain's operations would be reorganized under a new publicly traded company, also named "Tim Hortons Inc.", incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. The change was being made primarily for tax purposes.
In November 2010, Tim Hortons extended Interac debit payment system acceptance to most of its stores. The company previously began accepting Interac in its stores in Western Canada in 2003 and, later, MasterCard and MasterCard PayPass across most of its stores in 2007. The company often indicated the delay of broader or wider electronic payment acceptance was to "ensure speed of service". In 2012, Tim Hortons began accepting Visa cards, and in 2013, began accepting American Express cards.
Acquisition by Burger King
On 24 August 2014, U.S. fast food chain Burger King announced that it was in negotiations to merge with Tim Hortons Inc; the proposed $18 billion merger would involve a tax inversion into Canada, with a new holding company majority-owned by 3G Capital, and the remaining shares in the company held by current Burger King and Tim Hortons shareholders. A Tim Hortons representative stated that the proposed merger would allow Tim Hortons to leverage Burger King's resources for international growth; the two chains would retain separate operations post-merger. News of the proposal caused Tim Hortons' shares to increase in value by 28 percent.
On 25 August 2014, Burger King officially confirmed its intent to acquire Tim Hortons Inc. in a deal totalling CDN$12.5 billion (US$11.4 billion). 3G Capital will purchase the company at $65.50 per-share; existing shareholders will receive $65.50 in cash and 0.8025 shares in the new holding company per-share—all-cash ($88.50) and all-shares (3.0879) options will also be available. 3G Capital (which currently holds a 71% majority stake in Burger King) will hold a 51% majority stake in the new company, Tim Hortons' existing shareholders will own 22%, and Burger King's will own 27%. The new entity will be based in Oakville and listed on both the TSX and New York Stock Exchange. Burger King CEO Daniel Schwartz will serve as CEO of the company, with existing Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira being vice-chairman and director; Burger King itself will still operate out of its existing headquarters in Miami. The deal is subject to approval by Tim Hortons shareholders and regulatory authorities, and will form the third-largest fast food restaurant chain in the world. Caira reassured the integrity of Tim Hortons following the purchase, stating that the acquisition would "enable us to move more quickly and efficiently to bring Tim Hortons iconic Canadian brand to a new global customer base."
Tim Hortons was originally concentrated in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. In recent years, however, the chain has greatly expanded its presence into Quebec and western Canada.
Tim Hortons' international presence includes outlets in the United States and one that was on a military base outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, although this latter outlet was principally intended for Canadian Armed Forces and allied military personnel. Two more outlets are located in military bases at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Tim Hortons' other international expansions include a small outlet at the Dublin Zoo. Tim Hortons also made a deal with the Spar convenience store chain in the UK and Ireland, resulting in Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts being sold at small self-service counters in 50 Spar stores as of 30 April 2007.
TDL Group recorded $1.48 billion in sales in 2005 and has expanded across Canada, and also the US states of Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. In 2012, Tim Hortons Inc. recorded its total revenues at $3.12 billion (CDN).
Initially, the US stores were the result of natural expansion in Canadian border areas (e.g., stores in Maine and the Buffalo, New York area where Horton played from 1972 to 1974 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres). The first United States locations were opened in Deerfield Beach, Florida and Pompano Beach, Florida in 1981, but they proved unsuccessful and were closed. In 1985, the chain returned to the US with a location on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, New York. Starting in the mid-1990s, however, the chain began expanding in the US by acquiring former locations from fast food chains. In 1996 and 1997, thirty-seven former Rax Restaurants locations in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia were bought by Wendy's International Inc.; 30 of these were converted to Tim Hortons, while the others became Wendy's franchise locations. Thirty-five closed Hardee's stores in the Detroit area were also purchased with the intention of being converted. By 2004, the chain had also acquired 42 Bess Eaton coffee and doughnut restaurants situated in southern New England. Several combination Wendy's/Tim Hortons units were opened in the US; both in the "traditional" markets of Buffalo and Maine, and in the markets entered through acquisition.
Tim Hortons' products have become available in Ireland and Scotland at some SPAR convenience stores and Tesco supermarkets. The first expansion into Indiana was announced with the planned opening of a location in Richmond, Indiana's southwest side.
On 13 July 2009, Tim Hortons opened stores in New York City at former Dunkin' Donuts locations operated by the Riese Organization. One of the stores is located at Madison Square Garden, where Horton played as a member of the New York Rangers from 1969 to 1971.
In 2009, Tim Hortons opened its first store in Albany, NY, with more stores on the way.
- 600 new stores in Canada (primarily in Quebec and Western Canada but also including smaller communities) and 300 new stores in the US (primarily in its existing markets of Michigan, New York, and Ohio).
- Expansion into such non-standard store locations as hospitals, universities, and airports.
- Extending its co-branding initiative with US ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery, which began in 2009, to cover 60 Canadian stores and 25–35 new and existing US stores.
- Testing a new café/bake shop concept in at least 10 existing US locations, including "enhanced finishes, fixtures, and seating areas" as well as an expansion of menu offerings.
In October 2010, Tim Hortons confirmed that it is planning to open three kiosks at NorthMart stores in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in November 2010, as part of a joint venture with The North West Company, the owners of NorthMart. This opening will make Tim Hortons a fully Canadian operation with stores in every province and territory; the new branch will become its northernmost. The Tim Hortons logo in these kiosks will feature Inuktitut characters. According to Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs at Tim Hortons, "You could say it's overdue. If we can be in Kandahar, why can't we be in Iqaluit?"
In 2010, Tim Hortons opened two kiosks at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, partly as a test to eventual expansion into Pittsburgh (their closest locations at that point were in the Wheeling, West Virginia/Steubenville, Ohio area) as well as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby having a longtime sponsorship with the chain as well. In addition, Horton played for the Maple Leafs American Hockey League affiliate, the Pittsburgh Hornets, earlier in his career as well as the Penguins for one season in 1971–72. Aramark, which operated the kiosks, closed them in 2012, however Tim Hortons proceeded to open full-service locations in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas in July 2012. At the time of the entry into Pittsburgh, of the four NHL cities Horton played in (Buffalo, New York City, Toronto, and Pittsburgh), Pittsburgh was the only one without a Tim Hortons location, and was also where Horton met his future wife, Lori.
On 7 January 2014, Tim Hortons opened a kiosk in the Jobing.com Arena (where the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL play) in Glendale, Arizona. On 5 March 2014, The Phoenix Coyotes announced that as of 10 March 2014, the Tim Hortons stand would be open to the public from 9:00 to 15:00, seven days a week. This location is the first Tim Hortons in Arizona.
Opening in September 2014, will be a special one of a kind Tim Horton and Sabres themed Tim Hortons paying tribute to Tim Horton's time with the Buffalo Sabres as part of the HarborCenter project currently under construction in Buffalo, New York by Sabres owner Terrence Pegula.
Northeastern US decline
In November 2010, Tim Hortons announced it was closing 36 stores in the northeastern United States due to high competition with New England based Dunkin' Donuts and Au Bon Pain. The stores, which made less than half the average company per-store sales, were concentrated heavily in the Providence, Rhode Island, and Hartford, Connecticut, areas. In the announcement, the chain stated that it will concentrate its efforts on its core markets such as western Canada. In the same statement, the company announced the sale of its portion of distribution company Maidstone Bakeries to Tim Hortons' European partners. It will use the C$400 million generated by the sale for a stock buyback.
Middle Eastern expansion
Through franchisee partnership with Dubai-based Apparel Group, Tim Hortons entered the United Arab Emirates in 2011 with store openings in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Fujairah, with the first location being Sheikh Zayed Road, opened in September 2011. As of December 2013 it has 19 stores in the United Arab Emirates and two in Oman. They plan to open up to 120 stores over the next five years in the Persian Gulf area, with a focus on Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
Future expansion plans
In December 2011, Tim Hortons opened its 4000th restaurant. In 2012, Tim Hortons began advertising in the Youngstown, Ohio area in anticipation of an eventual expansion into the Mahoning Valley. The closest location at the time was in Calcutta, Ohio, about 50 miles south of Youngstown. The chain entered the area in July 2012 with the opening of a location in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.
Partnership with Cold Stone Creamery
The parent company of Cold Stone Creamery, Kahala, announced in February 2009 that it had reached an agreement with Tim Hortons to open up to 100 co-branded stores in the United States after successfully testing two locations in Rhode Island. The most notable co-branded store opened in August 2009 when Tim Hortons moved into three Cold Stone Creamery locations in New York City, including its flagship Times Square location.
In June 2009, Cold Stone Creamery started testing the Canadian market by opening its six co-branded locations with Tim Hortons located in Toronto, Oakville, Mississauga, Hamilton, Whitby, and Pickering. As of December 2009, Cold Stone Creamery has been expanding its test markets in Canada. There are now four locations in Calgary, Alberta, four stores in Nova Scotia, five stores in Ontario, and three stores in New Brunswick. As of April 2010, there are now also Tim Hortons/Cold Stone Creameries in Chilliwack, Duncan, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Victoria, British Columbia. In June 2010, locations opened in Markham, Ontario and Sudbury, Ontario. Also in June 2010, Cold Stone Creamery moved into six Tim Hortons locations in Quebec, including one in Montreal on St-Denis street. In the summer of 2010, Cold Stone Creamery also moved into the Tim Hortons location on Water Street in Summerside, PEI. A larger replacement Tim Hortons has been constructed on St Peter's Road in Charlottetown, with a Cold Stone Creamery location built into the design. The new location features both a drive-thru as well as a full restaurant.
In February 2014, Tim Hortons chief executive Marc Caira announced that they will be pulling Cold Stone Creamery from all its Canadian restaurants.
Tim Hortons and the Canadian military
Tim Hortons has outlets located on at least seven Canadian Forces Bases. TDL Group announced in March 2006, in response to a request by Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, its commitment to open a franchised location at the Canadian Forces operations base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The new Kandahar location opened on 1 July 2006, in a 40-foot (12 m) trailer on the military base. The 41 staff members of the Kandahar outlet have been drawn from the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency who received training on such matters as how to handle a potential nuclear or biological attack before working at the military base. The Canadian Federal government subsidized the operation of the Kandahar outlet in the order of CAD$4–5 million per year. The Kandahar Tim Hortons closed on 29 November 2011 after serving four million cups of coffee and three million doughnuts over five years.
Tim Hortons and the US military
The first Tim Hortons outlet at a US military base was opened in 2009 at Fort Knox. The following year, a second Tim Hortons outlet was opened at Naval Station Norfolk. As of November 2011, Tim Hortons has five outlets open on four U.S. military bases. Besides the first two, they are also at Naval Air Station Oceana, and two locations at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
|1||Hamilton, Ontario||May 1964|
|100||Thunder Bay, Ontario||December 1978|
|200||Hamilton, Ontario||December 1984|
|300||Calgary, Alberta||February 1987|
|400||Halifax, Nova Scotia||February 1989|
|500||Aylmer, Quebec||January 1991|
|700||Moncton, New Brunswick||October 1993|
|1000||Ancaster, Ontario||August 1995|
|1500||Pickerington, Ohio||March 1997||also Wendy's 5000th store|
|100 in US||Columbus, Ohio||31 July 1998|
|2000||Toronto, Ontario||December 2000|
|2500||Cayuga, Ontario||September 2003|
|3000||Orchard Park, New York||14 December 2006|||
|500 in US||Detroit, Michigan||2008|
|1 in Oman||Oman||2012|
|1 in Saudi Arabia||Saudi Arabia||2013|
Tim Hortons' first stores offered only two products – coffee and doughnuts. Aside from its coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and doughnuts, the Tim Hortons menu now contains a number of other baked goods, such as doughnut holes (branded as Timbits), muffins, croissants, tea biscuits, cookies, rolls, danishes, and more recently bagels – of which Tim Hortons sells one out of every two in the Canadian food service industry. Take-home cakes are offered in some locations.
Since the mid-1990s, the chain has moved into other areas, including speciality and premium items such as flavoured cappuccino, iced cappuccino, iced coffee, New York-style cheesecake, and a lunch selection that includes soups, chili, and submarine-style sandwiches. In fall 2006, Tim Hortons began rolling out a breakfast sandwich. The sandwich consists of an egg patty, processed cheese slice, either ham, bacon or sausage as the topper, and is placed on either a biscuit, English muffin or bagel. In October 2007, Tim Hortons launched the chicken fajita wrap, which contains spiced chicken and sautéed vegetables, but was soon discontinued, replaced a year later with the barbecue and ranch chicken wrap snackers. In December 2007, they introduced hash browns and the Bagel B.E.L.T., a breakfast sandwich that also includes lettuce and tomato.
Coupled with the expansion and expanded menu came the outsourcing of baked goods. Doughnuts, which used to be made at night in order to be ready for the morning rush, are now parbaked – partly cooked and then frozen and delivered to every restaurant in Canada from Brantford, Ontario. Each restaurant bakes and finishes the product throughout the day. As of April 2007[update], many of the various muffin batters are being revoked, as frozen, pre-made and pre-wrapped muffins are being introduced to all bakers at Tim Horton locations.
Originally featuring Pepsi products via fountain machines, Tim Hortons changed in the mid-1990s to Coca-Cola products. For a time Tim Hortons offered bottled and canned Coca-Cola products, but switched back to bottled and canned Pepsi products in 2007. PepsiCo replaced the Coca-Cola products on United States restaurants in 2011, disappointing similar longtime PepsiCo rival Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' Donuts moved to Coca-Cola products only for United States restaurants in April 2012 because of this.
In February 2009, Tim Hortons announced co-branding with American ice cream parlor Cold Stone Creamery. The deal called for each chain to convert 50 stores into dual-operation franchises, for a total of 100 stores. The idea was successfully tested at two stores in Rhode Island.
Despite this expansion in their offerings, Tim Hortons is still heavily dependent on coffee sales. In 2009, it was reported that 60% of their sales occur in the morning, and of that more than 50% is coffee. The coffee served is a blend of 100% arabica beans and in regards to the serving of coffee the chain has an "always fresh" policy where coffee is served within 20 minutes of brewing.
Nutritional information on most Tim Hortons menu items is made available by the company in a two-page brochure and is available online. The brochure does not list ingredient information.
In February 2012, Tim Hortons started selling a new beverage, White Hot Chocolate, in select branches.
On 16 April 2012, Tim Hortons launched a new frozen drink, Frozen Lemonade, which comes in two flavours: original and raspberry.
In May 2014, Tim Hortons launched a new frozen drink, Frozen Green Tea.
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Advertising and promotion
Since 2005, Tim Hortons has been the title sponsor of the Brier, the annual Canadian men's curling championships, along with the Canadian Ringette Championships. Shortly before December 2007, they discontinued their gift certificates, and replaced them with the Quickpay Tim Card, with the Christmas slogan "Because it's hard to wrap a double double" (coffee with two sugars and two cream). Many locations still accept gift certificates, however.
Tim Hortons' advertising slogans have included "You've Always Got Time for Tim Hortons" and starting in the mid-2000s, "Always Fresh. Always Tim Hortons." While both of these slogans are still used, Tim Hortons began using an alternative slogan, "It's Time for Tims" in November 2011.
On 12 July 2013, it was announced that Tim Hortons had acquired the naming rights to the new stadium being built in Hamilton, Ontario. Tim Hortons Field will become the home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2014. However, the corporate-sponsored name will not be used during the 2015 Pan American Games, when the stadium will host soccer matches.
Roll Up the Rim to Win
Each February, Tim Hortons holds a marketing campaign called Roll Up the Rim to Win. Over 31 million prizes are distributed each year, including vehicles, televisions, and store products. Customers determine if they have won prizes by unrolling the rim on their paper cups when they have finished their drink, revealing the result underneath.
Prizes are not distributed randomly country-wide; each of the company's distribution regions has distinct prize-winning odds.
In March 2006, two families were fighting over the Toyota RAV4 SUV prize of C$32,000 value when their daughters found a winning "roll up the rim" coffee cup in a garbage bin of an elementary school in Saint-Jérôme, north of Montreal. The younger girl had found a cup in the garbage bin and could not roll up the rim, so requested the help of an older girl. Once the winning cup was revealed, the older girl's family stated that they deserved the prize. Tim Hortons originally stated that they would not intervene in the dispute. A further complication arose when Quebec lawyer Claude Archambault requested a DNA test be done on the cup. He claimed that his unnamed client had thrown out the cup and was the rightful recipient of the prize. On 19 April 2006, Tim Hortons announced that they had decided to award the prize to the younger girl who had initially found the cup.
The store promotes itself through the "Tim Horton Children's Foundation." Founded by Ron Joyce, the Foundation sponsors many thousands of underprivileged children from Canada and the United States to go to one of six high-class summer camps located in Parry Sound, ON; Tatamagouche, NS; Kananaskis, AB; Quyon, QC; Campbellsville, KY; and St. George, ON.
The foundation's highest-profile fundraiser is Camp Day, which is held annually on the Wednesday of the first full week in June. All proceeds from coffee sales at most Tim Hortons locations, as well as proceeds from related activities held that day, are donated to the foundation. Small stores located in Esso Service Stations do not donate coffee proceeds on Camp Day.
Mr. Joyce's dedication and commitment to the Tim Horton Children's Foundation earned him the Gary Wright Humanitarian Award in 1991, presented periodically in recognition of the outstanding contributions to the betterment of community life throughout Canada. In recognition primarily for his work with the Foundation, he received an appointment to the Order of Canada, with the official presentation taking place on 21 October 1992, in Ottawa.
Tim Hortons sponsors other community outreach programs including Free Skating, Free Swimming, Earn-a-Bike Program, Remembrance Day, Food Drives, the Smile Cookie program, as well as a community clean-up project.
A Canadian cultural fixture
The ubiquity of Tim Hortons, through the wide expansion of its outlets, makes it a prominent feature of Canadian life; Canadians eat more doughnuts per capita and have more doughnut outlets per capita than any other nation. Tim Hortons' prevalence in the coffee and doughnut market has led to its branding as a Canadian cultural icon. The media routinely refer to its iconic status, despite being relatively recent development; there were only a few outlets before the chain's expansion in the late 1990s and 2000s. A series of Tim's television commercials promotes this idea by showing vignettes of Canadians abroad and their homesickness for Tim Hortons. Noted Canadian author Pierre Berton once wrote: "In so many ways the story of Tim Hortons is the essential Canadian story. It is a story of success and tragedy, of big dreams and small towns, of old-fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and of hockey."
Some commentators have bemoaned the rise of Tim Hortons as a national symbol. Rudyard Griffiths, director of The Dominion Institute, wrote in the Toronto Star in July 2006 that the ascension of the chain to the status of cultural icon was a "worrying sign" for Canadian nationalism, adding, "Surely Canada can come up with a better moniker than the Timbit Nation."
The recognition of Tim Hortons as a Canadian icon has permeated into American culture as the result of product placement efforts in conjunction with a marketing agency. In the American situation comedy How I Met Your Mother, while standing in a Tim Hortons "just around the corner from the Hockey Hall of Fame", Robin, played by Canadian actress Cobie Smulders, called the location the "most Canadian place in the universe". The chain has since embraced that comment as an unofficial slogan and has used it in promotional advertisements to emphasize their fixture in modern Canadian culture.
Another TV show that has Tim Hortons products making an appearance is The Last Ship, season 1, episode 2, "Welcome to Gitmo".
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After Tim Hortons had agreed to provide 250 cups of free coffee for a "Marriage and Family Day" hosted by the National Organization for Marriage, the company removed its sponsorship after it was revealed that the NOM was an organization that campaigns against gay marriage. The company stated the sponsorship was a violation of the company's policy not to sponsor events "representing religious groups, political affiliates or lobby groups."
In 1995 the Toronto Star had a story reflecting on Tim Hortons "selling out" to Wendy's with "the spectacle of another great Canadian icon, one more priceless chocolate coconut cream-filled dutchie glazed cruller Timbit of our precious heritage, gone to Yankee burgerfat, (rounding) out the menus of the two chains by blending Tim Hortons morning meals and snacks with the strength enjoyed by Wendy's in lunches and dinners; burp; and nobody around to pass the Maalox?"
Tim Hortons switch to a parbaking system has disappointed some die-hard customers, who note that this contradicts the chain's "always fresh" slogan. David Swick reported in the Halifax Daily News on 19 September 2003 Tim Hortons outlets in Atlantic Canada would no longer serve fresh donuts, but rather donuts that had been remotely factory-fried and then frozen and shipped. In 2008, two franchisees initiated a class-action lawsuit against the parent company for the switch to parbaking, "claiming breach of contract, breach of duty of fair dealing, negligent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment". The lawsuit cited that parbaking tripled the franchisee's fixed cost to produce a doughnut (from 6 cents per doughnut to 18 cents), required the purchase of new freezers and microwaves, and reduced profitability for the franchises while increasing profits for the parent company. Franchise owners are required to purchase food products from the Brantford-based parbaking company owned by IAWS Group PLC, and had originally been told the price of each doughnut would be 11 or 12 cents (and each Timbit 4.6 cents). The case was dismissed in February 2012.
A 2009 New York Times article contrasted the baked from scratch at stores approach of Krispy Kreme and some Dunkin' Donuts locations compared to the "flash frozen" and shipped Tim Hortons method. The NY Times article also noted an apparent scarcity of doughnut specialties such as the dutchie at newly opened Tim Hortons stores in New York City. Noting that "American visitors tend to flock to the sweets", including the "raisin-studded Dutchie", the Times found redemption among Canadians that the brand is once again a Canada based company while contrasting the way politicians in the U.S. "woo" soccer mom while in Canada they "go after Tim Hortons voters".
In September 2006, Tim Hortons courted controversy by mandating that employees were not to wear red as part of the Red Fridays campaign by families of the military to show support for Canadian troops. Within a few hours, Tim Hortons partially reversed its position and has allowed staff in Ontario stores to wear red ribbons or pins to show support for the wear red on Fridays campaign.
Some have complained about the packaging litter that appears around Tim Hortons outlets. In 2005 Mark Dittrick, a spokesman for the Sierra Club's Atlantic Canada chapter, said that "The Tim Hortons cup is easily the No. 1 recognizable item of litter in the country."
According to the blog Coffee and Conversation, "Tim Hortons does not sell organic coffee, does not sell Fair trade coffee, and does not disclose the source of its green beans". As of 2007, Tim Hortons website said that they decided against using Fair Trade coffee. Instead they created a program called the Sustainable Coffee Program; the first program was launched in Guatemala and in 2006 they started programs in Colombia and Brazil where they are "directly involved with coffee producing communities by providing direct financial assistance for technical training to improve the quantity and quality of coffee produced and assist farmers in getting their coffee to market at the best time and for the best price. Assistance is also provided on environmental management, in both proper farming techniques and reforestation projects, led by Tim Hortons." In addition, Tim Hortons supported schools and sponsored medical clinics in Guatemala. The annual report mentions this program but does not specify whether the beans they purchase are sourced from this program. The report only mentions "multiple suppliers of coffee".
In 2013, a Tim Hortons in London, Ontario, citing company policy, refused to allow a teen boy who was suffering an asthma attack to call 911 for an ambulance.
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