Tim Hortons' Canadian Citizenship

April 9, 2018 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Ordering a “double-double” is almost like having a secret password to get into an exclusive club.

Except, this club isn’t some swanky place behind a danky door in an alley, it’s the club of being proudly Canadian. It’s a Canadian term after-all. We canucks get a bit of a kick out of heading across the border and thoroughly confusing the fine folks at Dunkin’ Donuts.

So where do we get our double-doubles? Certainly, not from Starbucks.

We get them from Tim Hortons. The ultimate Canadian brand. From boxes of assorted Timbits to Roll Up The Rim, it’s the perennial favourite,

Then, research firm Leger released its “annual ranking of the most admired companies.” In just one year, Tim Hortons went from number 4 to number 50.

* Spits out dark roast coffee *

This is what captured our minutes this week. Here’s why:

In the last year, the gaps between what Tim Hortons think, does and says noticeably widened.

Tim Hortons has been a household name for so long because it was less of a business to Canadians and more of a cultural institution. Their values aligned with that of Canadians. And then their actions, through initiatives like Camp Day and Timbits Hockey, proved us all right.

Not to mention, they just felt Canadian. Tim Hortons may not have a special reserve roast and really only just began offering almond milk, but it didn’t let us down. It never overpromised. Everything about it felt like the quintessential picture of a person in a plaid shirt with a forest behind them.

Simple. No fuss. Canadian.

But then it lost its Canadian passport. Aside from who its owned by (Restaurant Brands International), a schism broke up the Canadian consistency of Tim Hortons’ thinking, doing and saying.

Remember in January when minimum wage went up? Well, a few franchise owners decided they were eliminating paid breaks and certain other benefits.

Canadians everywhere tossed their coffees, threw out their doughnuts and went to (mostly) virtual war with the brand. Some even followed along with a “No Timmys Tuesday” protest.

See, this doesn’t feel like a Canadian thing to do. Canadians expect big American companies to be cut throat, big business and all about that bottom line. But people up north have always held Canadian businesses, and Tim Hortons in particular, to a different standard.  

Canadians are kind (sometimes too kind – sorry). Canadians band together and treat one another – even strangers – like family. Canadians reach out and offer a hand.

This minimum wage business practically shattered that belief, when it comes to Tim Hortons aligning with such Canadian values.

So, in this situation, we have both a feeling and then the unfortunate physical proof that the brand has lost touch with its roots. This is why the outcome of Leger’s unfortunate new ranking for the fast-food brand isn’t too surprising.

Timmys still looks Canadian, with its signature red, white and brown colouring, love of hockey and maple dipped donuts.

It even sounds Canadian, running the classic, down-to-earth ads it always has.

But it’s not acting Canadian. In fact, it’s pretty much given up its Canadian passport.

This is the problem, plain and simple. While we’re not any kind of investor that gets to influence its actions, we’d say they need to return to the good ol’, classic Timmys that everyone knows and loves. After all, that’s the Timmys that felt like home.

We’d recommend starting with honest and transparent actions that benefit and highlight those behind the counter, but for now, we’ll continue sipping on our double double.

As an FYI, here’s the top 10 list side-by-side each brand's previous year's ranking:

1. Google (1)
2. Shoppers Drug Mart (2)
3. Canadian Tire (3)
4. Sony (7)
5. Samsung (24)
6. Microsoft (13)
7. Dollarama (5)
8. Kellogg’s (8)
9. Campbell’s (9)
10. Kraft (11)


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