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Jun 22, 2018

Tim Hortons president on what went wrong with franchisees

Tim Hortons president on breathing new life into the brand

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The president of Tim Hortons says the coffee chain could have done a “much better job” in communicating with its franchisees amid ongoing tensions.

“I think part of the [shortcomings] that we had in the last few years is, one: we didn’t lay down a very clear plan and make the plan together with the restaurant owners so that everyone could believe in it,” Alex Macedo told BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman in an interview Friday.   

“The second thing we could have done a much better job in is communicating with them – in being out there on the road, in the restaurants, talking, and learning what’s happening with the franchisees,” he added.  

Macedo was speaking in the context of the strained relationship between Tim Hortons, its parent company Restaurant Brands International, and some of its restaurant owners, who have battled over everything from cost-cutting measures amid Ontario’s minimum wage hike, to a class-action lawsuit over the company's alleged improper use of a $700-million national advertising fund.

But Macedo said franchisees shouldn’t fear losing their stores for speaking out.

“We take it very seriously when we have a conflict with a group of franchisees,” he said. “Right now, we have a small group of franchisees that actually has a very loud voice."

“My objective is to get them to join the bigger group of franchisees, to work together with us, to help us build a plan, to row in the same direction because this brand is amazing. And I know that they love the brand. We just have to work together to take it to the right direction.”



Before stepping into his current role in December, Macedo spent four years as North American president of Burger King, a brand also owned by Restaurant Brands International, where he helped launch the burger chain’s turnaround plan.  

“I’ve learned over the years to work very closely with franchisees, or restaurant owners, and build the plans together,” Macedo said.   

“Franchising, it’s like a family,” he added. “And you need to learn how the family functions and you need to speak the language, and you need to do everything together – because at the end of the day, we’re not running the restaurants.”

Macedo said he’s met almost every Tim Hortons franchisee in the country in an effort to communicate the company’s “Winning Together” plan.

“We sit in different chairs but we need to sit at the same time side of the table – and that’s what I’m going to try to bring to the system,” Macedo said.

As a result of meeting with the “vast majority” of the country’s restaurant owners, Macedo said he’s already seeing a difference in the way the franchisees communicate with the company’s leaders.  

“As we work on it more, we’re seeing the tide change,” he said.  

Macedo also discussed plans for some “big, bold initiatives” on the sales side soon, including a loyalty program. But despite Canada’s move to legalize marijuana this past week, he said there won’t be any cannabis-infused products at Tim Hortons in the near future.

“At the end of the day, we need to keep our restaurant owners profitable and our guests happy,” Macedo said. “That’s the strategy.”