Tim Hortons Gets Buzz From Concept Store

By Joel Cuttiford

Tim Hortons has unveiled a new concept store tucked away in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre as part of an invite-only convention this week for storeowners and suppliers that will serve as a visual brainstorming session.

Chief operating officer David Clanachan commented on the store by saying, “It’s not your dad’s Tim Hortons, so to speak.”

The full-scale model offers a glimpse at where the franchise could be heading—apparently alongside the evolution of the Canadian palate.  Tim Hortons seems to feel that Canadians want more than just coffee, donuts and sandwiches.  Why not take it to the next level with coffee flavored beer?  The concoction is now on tap at the concept store along with strawberry flavored beer for those with a serious sweet tooth.  Tim Hortons is clearly thinking creatively in order to stay competitive.

“Our franchise partners are all going to be here,” Clanachan explained.  “We want them to think outside the box, along with us, to say ‘What if…’ and ‘What could we be?’”

The company has even drawn up a potential design for a new logo consisting of a single bright red coffee bean.  Some of their ideas will never extend outside of the concept store, but those that work could end up in your neighbourhood store within the next few years.  Tim Hortons showcased digital menu boards at its previous concept store seven years ago, and they have only recently become part of the store design.

Redefining itself may be a challenge for a chain that has otherwise relied on brand recognition, but as more companies vie for the top spot in the Canadian coffee market, the company has no choice but to further distinguish itself.

“The consumer is much more savvy today than they have ever been in the past,” Clanachan said.  “They have opinions on what they’re looking for, and they have high expectations.”

Menu options may be the most immediate change throughout the chain.  The concept store offers omelets, breakfast crepes, cupcakes and cookies.  These items can all be ordered from touchscreen menus installed on tabletops.

Customers who are registered with a future version of the Timmy Me smartphone app would be able to opt for a more personalized experience.  The app will remember the customer’s name and their favourite food items, which could potentially reduce the time it takes to order both in the store and the drive-thru.  Those in a hurry can also choose from a grab-and-go section of food that ranges from sandwiches and salads to hot food items.

Aesthetic changes to the store are more obvious, including the structure of the building, which is made of glass and wood panels.  The transparency offers more visibility, particularly to the kitchen area, and the lighting adjusts to the time of day for added ambience.

Depending on how well they test, the company may incorporate some of these changes to the chain sooner than they have in the past.  “I envision a lot of what you see here being implemented not too far down the road,” CEO Marc Caira said.


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