Tale of two Tim Hortons: Suburban, rural locations busy, downtown restaurants empty

Tale of two Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons' sales are up but continue to fall short of pre-pandemic levels amid a stalled reopening that's left office towers — and the company's downtown locations — largely deserted.

While the coffee and doughnut chain's rural and suburban locations are busy, its downtown restaurants are struggling with a lack of foot traffic from workers, according to the company's latest results released Monday.

"There's a clear, concentrated drag from urban and super urban locations in our business," said José Cil, chief executive officer of Restaurant Brands International Inc., the company behind Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes.

Despite strong momentum early in the summer, he said rising COVID-19 cases tied to the Delta variant and renewed public health measures paused reopening plans and slowed the restaurant's recovery.

"Downtown Toronto, as an example, is still not back to work," Cil told analysts during a conference call. "Many of the large employers have pushed back returns to (the) office to sometime in 2022."

Tim Hortons is also grappling with labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising costs — issues plaguing much of the restaurant industry across the country.

Restaurant Brands chief financial officer Matt Dunnigan said the parent company is dealing with a "tougher cost environment" from general inflation and staffing wages.

He said prices have been impacted by inflation and the company is looking to simplify menus to help with labour pressures.

Restaurant Brands reported its third-quarter profit rose compared with its year ago as its revenue climbed more than 10 per cent.

The company, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, said it earned US$221 million in net income attributable to common shareholders or 70 cents per share for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from US$145 million or 47 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenue totalled nearly US$1.5 billion, up from US$1.33 billion in the same quarter last year.

The increase came as comparable sales rose 8.9 per cent at Tim Hortons and 7.9 per cent at Burger King. Popeyes saw a drop in comparable sales of 2.4 per cent.

On an adjusted basis, Restaurant Brands said it earned 76 cents per diluted share in the quarter, up from 68 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 74 cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

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