Tim Hortons’ reputation suffered last year, according to an annual survey, as the company dealt with an ongoing spat with its franchisees.

Leger’s 2018 Corporate Reputation Study revealed public opinion of the doughnut-and-coffee chain ranked at No. 50 – a sharp drop from fourth place the previous year.  

The results, released Thursday, come as Tim Hortons has been sparring with its franchisees as it has faced complaints over food quality in the wake of the chain’s sale to Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital in 2014.   

Tensions mounted over how to handle Ontario’s minimum wage hike in January – and more recently, the company and franchisees clashed over a $700-million renovation plan.

Loblaw didn’t rank much higher, coming in at No. 46 in the wake of the bread price-fixing scandal it admitted to participating in from 2001 to 2015.

The biggest reputation driver for the food industry was the quality of products and services, followed closely by honesty and transparency. Honesty was more important in the real estate and banking industries.

In terms of specific sectors, Sobeys had the highest ranking of the grocers, while Airbus was ranked highest among the industrial companies. The leader of discount stores was Dollarama and WestJet was the highest-ranked transport company.

The three firms Canadians admired most of the 241 companies considered were Google, followed by Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire.

The study was conducted with data collected between Dec. 17, 2017 and Jan. 29, 2018.