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Ditching the danish, and four more ways Tim Hortons is trying to stay relevant

(Image: Tim Hortons/Facebook)

(Image: Tim Hortons/Facebook)

Tim Hortons, once Canada’s reigning coffee chain, has tumbled from its throne. Starbucks shops are everywhere, indie cafés are teaching us to expect more from our brew, and the surprisingly successful McCafe line at McDonald’s is gobbling up a chunk of the lower-end coffee market. Timmies has no choice but to reinvent itself, which is exactly what it’s proposing to do.

Earlier this month, the company’s execs unveiled an ambitious five-year rebranding plan. Taken as a whole, the plan’s overarching theme seems to be something along the lines of, “If we can’t be the best, we can at least be the most omnipresent”which, all things considered, is a pretty clever strategy. (Conspicuously absent from the multi-part plan: any mention of just making better-tasting coffee.) Here, five ways Tim Hortons is planning to woo you back.

1. Murdering by numbers
Some would suggest that Tim Hortons has already reached its saturation point in Canada. The company begs to differ. It’s adding 800 new North American stores, 500 of which will be here, 300 in the U.S. (To put those numbers in perspective, Tim Hortons’s current Canadian shop counta staggering 3,588is already three times higher than Starbucks’, and ten times higher then Second Cup’s.)

2. Taking St. Louis
For some reason, the company’s U.S. expansion plans are weirdly focused on the Midwestern city. (40 of the proposed 300 new U.S. Timmies will be installed there.) We’re fairly sure there’s an insult to St. Louis in there, somewhere.

3. And the Middle East
The Persian Gulf already has 38 stand-alone Tim Hortons shops, and now it’s due to get 220 more. That means Canadians will soon have some surprising new common ground with Kuwaitis: crappy souvlaki and doughnut holes.

4. Ditching the danish
The strategy isn’t entirely a numbers game. Timmies also plans to revamp its menu by swapping out a bunch of stodgy, low-selling items for trendier new stuff, like kettle chips and green-tea slushies. Among the casualties: danishes, mixed-berry smoothies and all varieties of gingerbread men. The company has also dumped Cold Stone Creamery, having conclusively determined that few people care to cap off an average midday coffee run with 700-1200 calories of Mud Pie Mojo.

5. Targeting the grievously ill (and other captive audiences)
An important aspect of the plan is selling stuff to people who have absolutely no other options. That includes hospital-goers, old-age pensioners, office workers and people trapped inside sporting venues.

  • Alex

    and introducing a dark roast. finally, their coffee might taste a little less like urine

  • colea

    The danish was the only good pastry. Why don’t they ditch half the donuts they have, like the disgusting sprinkled ones?

  • GerrardCoxwell

    What about its expansion to the US Midwest is weird? That seems like a natural fit: wide open skies with long, lonely roads and lots of cars, suburban sprawl, and about as “mid” of the market as you can get. Makes sense to me.

  • Harold C. Christie

    I suppose I would like to know just how you know what urine tastes like.

  • Keri-Anne

    Maybe they should add items for vegans, people with nut or other allergies, or who eat kosher!
    I go to Starbucks or Second Cup as they offer dairy-free milk options, whereas Tims doesn’t.

  • Harold C. Christie

    Wow- if they gave out awards for snarkiness this article would be a major contender. What is happening up there in Toronto? You folks seem to be taking yourselves a little too seriously. Cosmopolitan snarkiness–not an attractive character trait.

  • Indz

    No NOT THE GINGERBREAD MEN! oh the humanity.

  • Patrick_Metzger

    How do you figure Timmie’s has “tumbled from its throne”? While they saw a marginal decline in their share of the restaurant coffee market last year, they’re still far and away the most successful chain in Canada as measured by both customer dollars and customer traffic. The fact that they have a five year strategy isn’t panic; that’s kind of what businesses do.

  • Mike F

    I would be really surprised if there wasn’t more for vegans and vegetarians in their upcoming, revamped menu.

  • Mike F

    The disgusting sprinkled ones are probably among their most popular donuts, especially among children.

  • Guy Incognito

    You bite your tongue, colea.

  • Ken Collins

    Or maybe they should make doughnuts by frying them as opposed to frying them, freezing them, and reheating them in an oven. Their dry, bready yeast doughnuts are awful.

  • Ibere

    As an immigrant, there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t get about Canada, but Canadians love for Tim Hortons will always be a mystery to me. Their pastries and sandwiches are mediocre at best and the coffee… oh my god, the coffee is terrible.

  • Khristopher Ranger

    One person’s opinion reflects everyone in Toronto? Come on now.

  • Khristopher Ranger

    I agree. They need to go back to making fresh donuts again!

  • Justine T

    I know this isn’t related to the article, but I agree with you, as a resident of Toronto I do not enjoy the “snarky” tone that Toronto Life journalists often in their writing.

  • ZH

    Tim’s could use a rebrand for its urban stores, but if anyone messed with Tim’s in the prairies (where I’m from) people would lose it! Tim Hortons, just the way it is, is still very popular in certain parts of the country. People wear t-shirts that say “don’t mess with my Timmies”… seriously.

  • Jay

    The dark roast was test-marketed in London, Ont. last fall – I tried it on a visit there and it was really good, compared with the regular brew.

  • lavegetaliana

    Agreed! I have written to them twice over the past few years to ask about adding soymilk at the very least, but they have, both times, very politely refused. I mean, I would still rather have coffee elsewhere, but it’s always nice to know that the option is there.

  • Guest

    I moved here from the US 4 years ago and there are 2 brands I don’t: Tims and Blackberry. Inferior products that have not learned to keep up with the times. Blackberry is already dead and Tims is seeing a decline. The best advice I’d give Tims is come out with a dark roast and you might be able to gain some of the share you’re rapidly seeing erode to Sbux and McD’s. And the food, there’s no helping the food…it’s terrible!

  • Brooklin10

    Tim Horton’s quality has continued its downfall through the years. Coffee tastes like it’s been sitting on the burner for hours. Their thawed from frozen donuts are tasteless. The buns that come with soup or chili have shrunk to half their size. Numerous times I have had to go inside after ordering through the drive-thru due to the fact that my order was incorrect. We rarely go to Tim’s anymore and now go to Starbucks since they have introduced their lighter roast. I’d like to see Starbucks introduce more food items such as what Coffee Culture offers (great food items, excellent service). My family also enjoys some of the small indie coffee houses which offer great food items & great service.