Will Tim Hortons’ Troubles Spillover To 100s Of Charities?

Loyal ‘Timmie’ customers and the Quick Service Restaurant Industry (QSR) are surely waiting and watching to see how the current conflict gets resolved between Tim Hortons franchisees and the chain’s parent company, Burger King/3G. As reported in the Business Insider “Tim Hortons Sales Drop After Reports Canadian Identity Crisis”, franchisees have launched their own lawsuit against their parent company in an attempt to resolve their differences. But why should Tim Hortons’ internal problems matter to Canadian charities?

Here are some reasons…

In 2014 Burger King and 3G International acquired Tim Hortons to form the third-largest restaurant brand in the world. Promises of operating as an independent entity franchisees expected it was, on the most part business as usual. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has always been part of the Tim Hortons DNA long before CSR was ever a thing in the nonprofit or private sector.

Charitable contributions could now be in jeopardy as franchisee costs rise, corporate local support is scaled back and consumer product pricing increase.

Tim Hortons storeowners are facing growing operating costs and be assured these prudent independent franchise owners will need to squeeze their books to maintain the high quality brand, grow their business and turn profits. The tipping of the power scales and the cost cutting measures at the community store level may very well result in significant reductions to the community charities Tim Hortons has so generously supported in the past. Take a look at Tim’s Community Initiatives to understand the breadth of their good work across Canada.

As reported on their corporate website, Tim Hortons’ key accomplishments in 2014 included: raising $11.8 million on Camp Day for the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation to support over 17,000 economically disadvantaged children to attend their camps, $5.3 million through the Smile Cookie program for over 500 local charities across Canada and the United States, and an increase in the number of farmers who participated in the Tim Hortons Coffee Partnership Projects to a total of 4,830 farmers. All this in addition to making an impact with thousands of children through TimBit sports programs.

The ripple effect of the changes occurring at Tim Hortons could very well effect a change in their achieving similar accomplishments in the future.

With the recent coffee price increases Tim Hortons received a blast of negative customer complaints. While a 2 cent increase might mean little at the cash register, it can mean a whole lot more at their donation boxes. Price sensitive Tim loyalists will have less to drop into those counter and drive-thru coin boxes resulting a direct financial impact on the local community charities. To give some perspective, a 2% annual decrease in donations to their Foundation could represent an annual decrease of $250,000 or more to support low-income and youth-at-risk across Canada.

Tim Hortons built its Canadian identity and brand by creating a special connection to the local community, in so far, they proudly recognize community impact in their brand vision: To be the fastest growing global restaurant brand with the best people proudly serving Canada’s favourite coffee while making a true difference in our communities. The Tim Hortons story serves as a CSR case study being played out in real-time and underscores the need for charities to maintain an acute awareness about the changing landscape of corporate Canada, their dependence on their own charitable partners and the potential effect change can bring to corporate social impact.

The friendly, welcoming culture found at Tim Hortons is why it has become a second home to millions in Canada. Not only a charitable company, it’s a gathering place for sports teams, seniors, business professionals, soccer moms and weary travellers.

It’s my hope that through all the strife, Tim Hortons corporate and franchise leaders will resolve their differences and emerge as a stronger, united caring company that stays true to its community roots and its brand vision.

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