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Tim Hortons sets its sights on bringing 'swagger back' in 2022

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·4 min read
Tim Hortons sets its sights on bringing 'swagger back' in 2022
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Tim Hortons' chief marketing officer says customers should expect an increased focus on quality through 2022, part of a multi-year plan to bring "swagger back" to the iconic Canadian coffee chain.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada, Hope Bagozzi says the next year will see the company continue to push its so-called back-to-basics strategy, even as it seeks to engage new customers with products like Timbiebs.

"It's going to be more of continuing to raise the bar on taste and quality," Bagozzi said.

"We've done all the work to really improve our core menu items and existing items. Over the coming years, it's going to be about building upon that with additions that help strengthen and stretch the brand, and give our guests even more choices."

Tim Hortons is now more than two years into its back-to-basics approach, an initiative launched a year after the company introduced three times as many limited-time offers as it normally does, including a Beyond Meat plant-based burger. The plan promised to improve the quality of the chain's core offerings, including coffee, baked goods and breakfast items.

Bagozzi joined the company in January 2020, just before the pandemic struck. She previously worked at McDonald's Canada for 15 years, most recently running the fast food chain's national marketing team.

When she started at Tim Hortons, Bagozzi said she was "impressed" that the management team at parent company Restaurant Brands International (QSR)(QSR.TO) recognized that a back-to-basics plan was needed – something that also came up throughout her interview process with the company.

"It had been probably chasing too many things in recent years and lost a bit of focus on what Tims stood for," Bagozzi said.

"What the brand needed coming in was more of a focus on getting back to our roots, getting back to a focus on quality."

Bagozzi says the company has done that this year, pointing to the installation of technology said to improve the consistency of Tim Hortons coffee, the addition of fresh-cracked eggs in its breakfast sandwiches and the relaunch of the company's lineup of espresso drinks.

"What COVID-19 kind of allowed us to do is knuckle down and do the hard work when it came to fixing the foundation," she said.

It's an approach that David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said was necessary for the company, which he argues had lost its way in previous years.

"What they've done is they've focused on retrenching their menu and making it less complicated than it was before. Overall, as far as companies in their sector, they've actually been doing much better this year than they did in the previous year," he said in an interview.

Appealing to younger guests

While the company is focused on its back-to-basics approach and maintaining the brand among its loyal customers, it's also willing to try new things, particularly when it comes to partnerships. In November, the company teamed up with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber to launch three new Timbit flavours – called Timbiebs – as well as a lineup of merchandise that sold out quickly.

"Justin has wide appeal, but certainly resonates most with younger guests. I think that does fit with something that we're looking to expand," Bagozzi said. But she added it doesn't mean Tim Hortons will be changing its overall approach anytime soon.

"We won't ever take our eye off staying relevant to our loyal guests, but at the same time, you do have to be mindful of your guests of tomorrow. We're committed to having a good balance of not changing so much that the loyal guest stops recognizing who we are."

Going into 2022, Bagozzi says the company will continue to refine its menu, particularly focusing on coffee, doughnuts and breakfast items. The company is now in the midst of removing all artificial ingredients from product offerings, with more than 90 per cent of the products on offer free of artificial ingredients.

"It's starting to feel like Tims has got its swagger back," Bagozzi said.

"I'm hearing from people as they feel a difference when they come to Tims, whether it's the level of service, taste and quality of the products, or that the advertising feels fresh and more contemporary. I think all of the things that we've been doing are the right things to do for the brand and it's starting to connect on the business level too."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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