Can Tim Hortons’ new lid save its reputation?

Tim Hortons new lid
Tim Hortons new lid

Tim Hortons has been under fire for a while now as it struggles to deal with the changing landscape of the coffee business in a new politically correct world.

A recent study by research firm, Reputation Institute, has Tim Hortons dropping to 67th from 13th place in the most well-regarded companies of 250 that it studied this year.

This is quite a precipitous drop for Tim Hortons as a brand, but not unexpected as they encountered a bit of a headwind.

The recent spate between some of the franchisees that have banded together to be known as the Great White North Franchisee Association (GWNFA)and parent company, Restaurant Brand International, which is known to do aggressive cost-cutting to achieve profitability has been in the news with claims of intimidation by the parent company and them misusing funds intended for marketing.

To further complicate the matter a franchisee who thinks about speaking out against the parent company might have their franchise renewal revoked so they keep quiet in fear of reprisal.

In addition, the recent increase in Ontario minimum wage to $14/hr has led to locations of Tim Hortons owned by the children of the co-founders to cut back on benefits and paid breaks.

Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr. looked absolutely reprehensible in the eyes of the public.  Former Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne,  even went out to call the Tim Hortons heirs actions “a clear act of bullying”.

The optics have not been good for Tim Hortons as a beloved Canadian institution as some people have already started to look elsewhere for their coffee runs.  Starbucks, Second Cup and McDonald’s all come to mind. (As an aside to a “Canadian institution”, we can’t really call it Canadian anymore as the real owners are a consortium of American and Brazilian companies.)

And now words on the street of some of the most common complaints about Tim Hortons are burnt coffee, no longer fresh (you don’t hear the jingle that new pot brewed every 20 minutes anymore), especially in some gas stations and mall kiosks, water-down coffee, inconsistent and shrinking donut sizes compared to the suburbs and pastries no longer using real ingredients.  When was the last time you had an apple fritter with real apple bits (we’re not even going to say chunks)?  Whether these accusations are grounded in reality or not no longer matters as damages have been done to its reputation.

So what are the plans for Restaurant Brand International to counter these perceptions and negative downward trends in reputation, new lid, possible new bag, and some new commercials?  We are sure that these commercials are going to be heart-warming, but it will take more than this to win us back right?

We don’t know, but perhaps a new lid is a good starting point.

Tim Hortons has recently announced its plan to replace its aging lid which is prone to leak all over you when taking a sip, yes it happens a lot to people.  That new white shirt will now need to be washed or dry-cleaned. In addition, placing the coffee cup in your car cup holder, be prepared to clean the mess if you hit a bump on the road.

So this new lid is long overdue and a welcomed good news for Tim Hortons fans, but perhaps those that left will not be coming back anytime soon.