Jul 3, 2009

Tim Hortons: 5 Things You Didn't Know

There's more to Tim Hortons than icecaps and timbits. Find out what you didn't know about this national institution.

Man cannot live on beer alone. That's why we're grateful for Tim Hortons. The enormously popular coffee chain has been serving up double-doubles and doughnuts since 1964, when former NHL defenseman Tim Horton opened up his first store in Hamilton, Ontario. More than 45 years later, this international conglomerate now has more than 3,000 outlets worldwide and controls a staggering 62% of the Canadian coffee market. So grab an apple fritter and settle in as we take a fresh look at the nation's largest quick-service food chain.

1- It's owned by Americans

Despite being a Canadian institution, Tim Hortons has actually been owned by a bunch of Yankees since August 8, 1995, when the company officially merged with Wendy's International, Inc. The deal transformed Timmys into a wholly owned subsidiary of the fast-food chain and prompted expansion into a number of key American markets, including Michigan, Maine, Connecticut, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. Today, you can find Tim Hortons franchises in more than 393 locations south of the border. (The good news is this national treasure just announced in June that it is coming home.)

You can also find Tim Hortons on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange, thanks to the company's decision to sell up to $600 million USD in stock. As of the summer of 2009, Timmys is listed on the TSX for $28.62 per unit, meaning you can buy a piece of the company for the same price as six dozen doughnuts. Capitalism has never tasted so good!

2- It's more popular than McDonald's

Have you ever wondered why Grimace has a frown on his face? It's because Tim Hortons has officially supplanted McDonald's as Canada's largest food service operator. Believe it or not, Timmys has nearly twice as many Canadian outlets as McDonald's, and its system-wide sales surpassed those of McDonald's Canadian operations in 2002. The chain also accounted for a staggering 22.6% of all fast-food industry revenues in Canada in 2005. So, what's their key to their success? According to University of Guelph professor, Geoff Smith, it's a matter of obeying trends. "What Tim's has done, they've managed to continue to reinvent themselves," he says. Indeed, Tim Hortons has gone from serving just coffee and doughnuts when they first opened in 1964, to now offering a menu that reads like a novella. Some of the company's innovations since 1981 include muffins, cakes, pies, yogurt and berries, cinnamon rolls, chicken salad wraps, and hot breakfast sandwiches.

Of course, advertising also helps. According to a 2007 study, Tim Hortons came in 11th place (four spots ahead of McDonald's) among the top 15 advertisers with the largest variety of TV ads on the Canadian English market.

3- Moncton has the most Tim Hortons per capita in Canada

Despite having a population of just 64,128, the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, has a staggering 22 full-sized Tim Hortons franchises. That equates to 1 restaurant for every 2,915 residents. That's a particularly eye-opening statistic when you consider that the ratio of Tim Hortons to Canadian citizens country-wide is a lofty 1 to 15,000. Then again, if you lived in a city as dull as Moncton, you'd need something to keep you awake too.

4- Tim Hortons uniforms were created by a high-class designer
The warm beige, brown and black tones sported by Tim Hortons employees may not appear very splashy, but they were actually created in 2001 by internationally renowned fashion designer Stephan Caras. “Tim Hortons employees will feel very professional in this collection,” Caras said at the time. “It’s a more contemporary, newer look that will allow them to feel good in what they wear. Employees are customer service ambassadors -- the image of Tim Hortons. That’s why I designed a look that is crisp, clean and stylish.”

Born in Greece and educated in Australia, Caras has worked with such formidable fashion houses as Guy Laroche, Hermes and the House of Biba in England, and his personal triumphs have included winning the prestigious Gown of the Year Award and serving as wardrobe designer for the Miss World title winner. Oddly enough, the role of Tim Hortons Uniform Designer has not been given a particularly prominent space on his career resume. Go figure.

5- Tim Horton died in a drunk-driving accident
The founder of the first Tim Horton's Donut Shop in Hamilton, Ontario, Tim Horton was a bruising defenseman who plied his trade with four different NHL clubs during an impressive 24-year career. Sadly, his life came to a grisly end on February 21, 1974, when his car hit a cement culvert in Saint Catharines, Ontario, violently ejecting him from his vehicle. Police later determined that Horton had been driving at over 100 km per hour at the time, and a subsequent autopsy revealed that his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. Perhaps he should have stuck with coffee.

With more than 2,710 outlets in Canada alone, Tim Hortons is as much a part of our heritage as hockey hip checks and reruns of Degrassi Junior High. It helps, of course that it’s also a phenomenally successful enterprise. In 2006, Tim Hortons raked in $1.48 billion. Tim Hortons’ impressive reach also extends to a number of very worthwhile charities including the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation, a non-profit network of camps for economically disadvantaged children. Every year, children are selected from each of the communities in which a Tim Hortons store operates, giving thousands of kids across Canada the chance to experience the thrill of going off to camp.

As long as Canadians need a caffeine fix, this revered coffee chain will remain on our national radar. As their slogan suggests, “You always have time for Tim Hortons.”

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