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Tim Hortonsí store of the future? Quinoa salads, beer taps and cold brew coffeeFriday, August 01, 2014 > 08:54:26
Salads with quinoa and others with black beans. A gift wall with beer glasses and wine carafes. Cold-brewed coffee and loose-leaf teas in flavours such as Moroccan Mint and Vanilla Rooibos.
It doesn’t look like a typical Tim Hortons outlet, but it might be one day.
“These are all really pushing the edge of the envelope, but we are really gauging reaction to some of them,” David Clanachan, chief operating officer at Tim Hortons, said during a tour of a mock store Wednesday at the company’s Owner Convention in Toronto, aimed at showcasing sales-boosting ideas for the future to its franchisees. “Before we would start taking this outside [to consumers] we want to understand how [franchisees] feel,” he added, noting digital menu boards showcased at the last convention seven years ago were later introduced at its 4,500 restaurants worldwide.
As Tim Hortons gets close to capacity in Canada, where it has 3,600 outlets, growing sales becomes more of a challenge. CEO Marc Caira has made menu innovation a key strategy since taking over the helm a year ago, and is trying to encourage customers to order more items.
“If I can upsell them, or increase the average cheque by offering more value, then I win,” he said Wednesday.
The store mock-up inside the walls of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre looked radically different from the restaurant chain’s current earth-toned iteration, with high-gloss white counters, tables and banquettes and an open glass-walled view into the back kitchen, so people could see baked goods going in and out of industrial ovens. A large in-store touch screen would enable customers to see current weather conditions or find out more about Tim Hortons charities and menu items.
In addition to new side salads, potential menu items behind the glass included a range of more complex baked confections such as muffin-sized individual peach pies; elaborately decorated donuts in flavours such as tiramisu, lemon meringue and black forest cake; and turnover-style Nutella pockets.
The case also held Starbucks-style wrapped sandwiches such as ham and swiss on a pretzel bagel for people who do not want to wait to have their food customized or prepared in front of them, and snack packages including hummus and flat bread or cheese and hard-boiled eggs with veggie sticks.
Tim Hortons and rival McDonald’s have spent years trying to “Starbuck themselves,” said David Bell, senior consultant in planning and retail consulting at Colliers International in Vancouver — putting in video screens, fireplaces, and more comfortable, movable chairs.
“They are trying to bring an experiential element to the value-conscious consumer — the one who doesn’t go to Starbucks because it is too expensive,” he said.
“You are seeing that kind of innovation from chains who are up the price ladder from [Tims and McDonald’s].” But there is an “aspirational element” to going to slightly higher-end rivals such as Chipotle and Panera bread for some consumers, he said, and if Tim Hortons stays on top of trends it could pull any straying customers back in its doors.
It comes amid a tepid market: traffic was flat at Canadian restaurants in 2013, with gainers in the market stealing share from other rivals, according to market research firm NPD Group, a trend that is expected to continue through 2014.
Despite the wine and beer gift glasses on display at the convention, Mr. Caira said Tim Hortons has no plans to license its locations. “This is all conceptual …we are looking at all sorts of things, but we are not specifically looking at selling spirits.”
Tim Hortons plans to open another 500 outlets over the next five years in Canada, as well as 300 in the U.S. and 220 in the Middle East.