Tim Hortons CEO plans to review it all
Sep 17, 2013 / 6:19 pm
Everything from coffee cup sizes to doughnut selection is under the microscope at Tim Hortons (TSX:THI) as the company's new chief executive settles into his role and begins a widespread review of the chain's operations.
Marc Caira is looking for ways to boost the reputation of the already iconic company, and he wants to improve how customers feel about their experience at the counter, which he calls "the moment of truth" for any quick service restaurant.
"If you make a mistake there, then you're impacting the consumer, and today's new reality is you can't afford to do that," he said in a recent interview at the company's headquarters in Oakville, Ont.
"You cannot give consumers permission to go somewhere else."
Before he joined Tim Hortons, Caira held various executive roles at Nestle's global operations where he helped expand the company's hot and cold beverage division. He says his experience with Nestle means he comes to Tim Hortons with an open mind and thinking like a customer.
"The beauty of my role is that I can ask as many questions as I want," he said.
Hardly two and half months into his tenure at the Canadian chain, Caira is still learning how Tim Hortons operates. So far, he has travelled to more than 20 cities across the country to talk with franchisees, and he's been catching up on how the 49-year-old company has evolved.
His office smells of a fresh coat of paint and new leather chairs, and hints of his roots at Nestle are scattered around the room. A collection of KitKat chocolate bars behind his desk are branded with his image, a personalized option for the Japanese market.
In his new role, that type of creative quirk could come in handy. Tim Hortons has faced an onslaught of competition from coffee chains like Starbucks and fast food restaurants like McDonalds, who have offered deep discounts to their customers along with loyalty programs.
While Tim Hortons still dominates Canada's coffee market, the company has weathered uneven same-store sales growth this year, and expects to fall short of its target ranges.
While Caira wants to be different, he knows that sometimes traditional mainstays are what work best. His favourite doughnut is the Boston Cream, which he enjoys with an iced cappuccino.
"I like chocolate," he said.
Tim Hortons needs to consider launching innovative platforms it can build on, rather than just new products, he said. Hot lunches have been a popular focus for the company over the past year, and soon it could expand into more options angled at dinner-hour customers.
Tim Hortons shares rose 19 cents to close at $59.27 Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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