February 16, 2016 2:35 pm
Updated: February 16, 2016 3:24 pm

Canadians don’t care who owns Tim Hortons — we’re still lining up

Tim Hortons said sales at established restaurants continue to climb in Canada.

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Remember the calls to boycott Tim Hortons following the coffee chain’s merger with Burger King last year? Neither do many of those who swore off Tims’ famous coffee it seems.

Aided by new menu items like Nutella pockets and grilled wraps, Tim Hortons attracted more Canadian customers through its first full-year under the new Restaurant Brands International, with same-store sales at its 3,700 or so Canadian locations rising a strong 5.5 per cent, or well above the pace of rival fast-food stops.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better first year,” Daniel Schwartz, the head of Restaurant Brands who ran Burger King before the two chains combined, said on a conference call Tuesday.

Tims added 99 additional locations in Canada last year, the company said, and another 56 in other markets as it got the ball rolling on international expansion plans that were at the heart of the Burger King merger 15 months ago.

MORE: Canada has yet to hit Peak Tim Hortons, execs say

“The biggest driver of this acquisition from the get-go was growth,” Schwartz said the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

Tim Hortons did close 27 under-performing restaurants in New York and Maine last year, said chief financial officer Joshua Kobza. The closures will allow the fast-food giant to focus its resources on markets where it sees the greatest potential for growth.

Tim Hortons said Tuesday it will expand in Indiana, forming an exclusive partnership with Luke Family Brands in Indianapolis. The coffee chain has similar agreements with franchise operators in Ohio as well as St. Louis.

Kobza said he expects to strike several such “master franchise” agreements with U.S. franchisees this year to help grow the U.S. store count by the “hundreds” over the next several years. Tims currently operates about 890 locations south of the border.

“What we probably view as the most exciting growth opportunity for Tim Hortons is growing the brand in the U.S.,” he said.

“We’ve made that probably one of our biggest areas of focus over the past year.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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