If, as Dunkin Donuts would have you believe, America runs on Dunkin, then Canada runs on Tim Hortons—and as the company grows, some of the rest of the world just might start to run on Tim Hortons, too.
Part of Canadian Culture
It’s impossible to extrapolate Tim Hortons from Canadian culture, as it is a distinctly Canadian company, born and bred. Despite now being one of the brands owned by a Brazilian firm called 3G (which also owns Burger King), Canadians still view Tim Hortons as a homegrown phenomenon, and it remains the largest fast food chain in the country.
The chain is best known for its coffee and donuts, which are served in an expedited fashion. Today, Tim Hortons also serves breakfast sandwiches and hot items like oatmeal out of its more than 4,000 locations worldwide.
Beloved Athlete Turned Tycoon
In 1964, a famed Toronto Maple Leafs player named Tim Horton opened a shop by the same name where he sold coffee and donuts. They each cost 10 cents, and the store enjoyed basically immediate success. A few years later, the first franchise of Horton’s shop was opened.
Tim Horton passed away just 10 years after opening his first restaurant, but his legacy continued to grow as the chain expanded its menu offerings and even began opening locations in the United States in the 1980s.
The ‘90s were a period of significant growth for Tim Hortons, as they saw the 1000th store open, and were marked by Tim Hortons’ foray into lunch sandwiches, as well as bagels and iced coffee. Eventually, the beloved Tim Hortons coffee brand made its way into consumers’ homes as they began selling it in grocery stores.
When the chain was purchased by 3G capital in 2014, it helped form the third largest chain restaurant brand in the world, known as Restaurant Brands International. Still, Tim Hortons maintains its hometown sensibilities as it continues to operate as an independent entity despite technically belonging to the same company as other brands.
The Coffee Game Outside of Canada
While Tim Hortons obviously has a lock on the coffee industry within its home country, the rest of the world is another story. The chain hasn’t expanded quite so far as some of its competitors, and so comparing them begins to look like something of a David and Goliath situation.
The most obvious and direct competition for Tim Hortons is Dunkin Donuts. While Starbucks is also a competitor, they’re so far ahead of these two smaller chains that it’s unreasonable to match them up. Still, between Dunkin (which is a newer company than Hortons) and Tim Hortons, Dunkin wins out with a brand value that’s a couple billion higher than Tim Hortons’ $4.5 billion.
Reality Ads and Roll Up The Rim
Perhaps the most famous Tim Hortons visibility initiative is an annual contest called Roll Up The Rim, where customers can roll up the rims of their coffee cups to reveal prizes. To play into the fervor of the contest, Tim Hortons released comedic ads in 2019.
Still, the much-loved yearly initiative has also been the source of scandal throughout the years, prompting bitter arguments and even break ins. Roll Up The Rim isn’t the only thing dragging Tim Hortons down, though. Franchisees have had a hard time adjusting to the rule of the new parent company, and the discord has trickled down into a series of negative news articles and declining popularity.
In 2018, Tim Hortons dropped from 4th to 50th in Canada’s annual brand reputation rankings. This drop in rank could spell trouble for the beloved Canadian brand; it remains to be seen whether the new parent company can recalibrate and regain the former glory of Tim Hortons.