Various Tim Hortons locations in select markets have "slightly" increased prices for some breakfast menu items, the coffee shop giant has confirmed.
It wouldn't provide details on exact locations or menu items, or by how much items are going up. CBC News has heard reports that some breakfast sandwiches have gone up by 20 cents.
The move follows news last week that — because franchise owners couldn't raise prices — some cut employee benefits to offset the cost of Ontario's minimum wage hike to $14 an hour from $11.60.
However, Tim Hortons said the new price hikes aren't connected to the minimum wage increase.
"Regular adjustments to menu prices are a normal part of the restaurant business," said a spokesperson in an email to CBC News. "Many factors are considered when determining the final price of each menu offering and prices may vary by region."
The chain previously raised prices on some hot beverage and breakfast menu items in August, less than six months ago.
An employee at a location in the Greater Toronto Area told CBC News he noticed a price increase this week of about 20 cents on some breakfast sandwiches.
He said when Tim Hortons raises prices, it typically applies to a large region such as an entire province.
"Usually when prices go up, it's not very municipal, it's a large area," he said. The employee asked to remain anonymous because he fears repercussions from his employer.
On Wednesday, customer Art Jaszczyk said he visited a Tim Hortons in Markham, Ont., and noticed that his favourite menu item —a bagel sandwich breakfast meal — had gone up from $6.77 to $7 — an increase of 23 cents.
The next day, he encountered the same price hike at a Tim Hortons in Toronto.
"Twenty-three cents doesn't sound like much, but I thought, hey, they're moving fast," said Jaszczyk.
He says he's happy to pay a bit more, as long as the money helps pay workers the minimum wage increase without clawing back their benefits.
"I was pissed off," said Jaszczyk, when he learned that some Tim Hortons franchise owners were cutting employee benefits such as paid breaks to offset Ontario's wage increase.
"We've got to make sure that they don't start being penalized, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul."
'Totally unrelated' to wage increase
Last week, the Great White North Franchisee Association (GWNFA), which represents several Tim Hortons franchise owners, defended owners cutting back employee benefits — a move that has generated public outrage.
GWNFA stated that with the wage increase, franchise owners face increased labour costs, and head office won't let them generate revenue in other ways, such as by raising prices.
"Many of our store owners are left no alternative but to implement cost-saving measures in order to survive," GWNFA said in a statement.
Tim Hortons' parent company, Restaurant Brands International, shot back by blaming the recent uproar on a "rogue group" of franchise owners who "do not reflect the values of our brand."
Despite the close timing, Tim Hortons says the latest price hikes have nothing to do with the dispute with franchise owners.
GWNFA also downplayed the price hikes. "These were merely slight menu board adjustments totally unrelated to minimum wage increases," said a spokesperson in an email to CBC News.