Bill Kelly: Corporate greed is killing Tim Hortons

A Tim Hortons coffee shop in downtown Toronto.
A Tim Hortons coffee shop in downtown Toronto. Eduardo Lima/CP

Here in Hamilton, we’ve always had a soft spot for Tim Hortons.

After all, the first-ever Timmies store opened on Ottawa Street in Hamilton’s east end.

As the chain grew, we watched with the same pride that a parent feels when their children leave the nest and become successful in their chosen field.

But things changed dramatically a few years ago when the business was bought by Restaurant Brands International, or RBI, a huge international food conglomerate.

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They forced franchisees to spend tens of thousands of dollars to renovate stores, they cut back on the quality of the food and paid no attention to the protests from franchise owners, who understood that strong bond between Tim Hortons stores and the local community.

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Then, of course, there was the wrong-headed reaction to the minimum wage hike in Ontario. Timmies employees were made to pay for their uniforms and stripped of some of their benefits.

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It’s no wonder that, in a recent survey of the most respected brand names in Canada, Timmies fell from the No. 4 spot all the way down to No. 50.

I feel bad for the franchise owners, many of whom are great contributors to the community and I feel bad for disgruntled customers and former customers.

It’s sad really. Tim Hortons used to be a revered part of Canadian culture and that special relationship has been ruined by corporate greed.

Sometimes, bigger isn’t better.