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Placer Bytes: Fast Food's Latest

Ethan Chernofsky
January 13, 2020
Placer Bytes: Fast Food's Latest

Big Changes For Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is one of three key components to Restaurant Brands International alongside Burger King and Popeyes. And while the latter two have had stellar earnings, a decreased appetite for Tim Hortons has held the company back. With President Alex Mecado’s resignation announcement, there is a powerful opportunity for a turnaround. Tim Hortons had a difficult year, with most months down year-over-year in traffic compared to 2018. 

Yet, the decline might be the secret to the turnaround. While there is certainly value to be found in changes to in-store experiences and a wider menu, there is also a unique opportunity in better owning the calendar. When comparing Tim Hortons to U.S. coffee king, Starbucks this issue becomes more apparent. 

First, while Starbucks sees an inherent strength and demand throughout the winter months for hot coffee, Tim Hortons does not see the same benefit. Second, the inability to effectively tap into the holidays, limits the ongoing excitement surrounding the Tim Hortons brand. For example, from January 2017 through November 2019, Starbucks saw visits rise 62.7% above the daily baseline on Black Friday, while Tim Hortons saw a 14.6% increase. In fact, the highest daily increase Tim Hortons saw throughout the period was 48%. Considering the daily average for Starbucks is much higher, this makes the gap even more significant in the ability to manufacture events to dominate the calendar.

The Starbucks Advantage

Speaking of coffee chains, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are serving similar audiences from an average Household Income perspective. While Starbucks does have a lead in customers’ earnings over $100,000, Dunkin sees an advantage in the $75,000-$99,999 segment. Yet, both of these numbers are relatively close. Starbucks sees 20.3% of visitors earning over $100,000, while Dunkin sees 19.5%. 

Yet, location can have a huge impact on this difference. For example, in New York, 29.2% of Starbucks customers come from homes with an Average Household Income of over $100,000, compared to 21.8% for Dunkin Donuts, a much larger gap. In Florida, the gap grows from 0.8% difference nationally to a 3% difference, a significant jump. And these differences matter, as they indicate the value of different strategies in different locations, something Starbucks has proven especially adept at taking advantage of.

Chick-Fil-A Expands Menu

Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A added Mac & Cheese to their menu and saw an uptick in traffic. Now the brand will be running tests for new menu items in specific regions across the country to test the viability of a new, streamlined menu. When the last news item was released on August 13th, it helped drive the second most successful week from November 2017 through November 2019, with visits 25.6% above the baseline.  

While it would be unreasonable to expect a limited release to match nationwide peaks, should the pilot go well, Chick-fil-A could be even stronger in 2020.

Can Tim Hortons take advantage of a revamped ‘holiday’ strategy? What sets Starbucks apart from Dunkin? Will Chick-fil-A’s new menu items drive a new wave of success? Visit to find out.

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