Having arrived in the UK in 2017, Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons is ramping up expansion with a new franchise model and expects to open around 25 stores a year. Chief Commercial Officer Kevin Hydes speaks to World Coffee Portal about the iconic brand’s key achievements in the UK so far, the burgeoning drive-thru coffee market and why the time is right for rapid growth
Kevin Hydes, Chief Commercial Officer, Tim Hortons UK & Ireland | Photo credit: Tim Hortons
Iconic Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons entered the UK in June 2017 with a store in Glasgow. Kevin Hydes, who previously held senior marketing and brand development roles at Costa Coffee, joined Tim Hortons UK & Ireland in July 2017 as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) and has overseen its development to 75 sites across the UK. Having spearheaded the coffee chain’s ‘refined operating model’, Hydes is now implementing Tim Hortons’ strategy to grow its national reach at pace.
What have some of your key business learnings since Tim Hortons debuted in the UK?
It has been great to see Tim Hortons grow across the UK since we opened our first store in Glasgow in 2017. We always have such a positive response at every new site we open, and we continue to receive tremendous support from the communities in which we operate.
One of the key things we have learned over the last six years is that when translating an iconic brand from one territory to another, you need to demonstrate and reinforce the brand pillars that made it a success in the first place. Tim Hortons has been so well received in the UK from the outset because we focused on reinforcing the values established in our home Canadian market – being a welcoming and inclusive brand through our product, service and environments.
We are also very proud of our localised product offering, it’s something we developed to ensure we meet consumer’s expectations in the UK. We offer Tim Hortons’ famous coffee, beverages and baked goods, but we have also developed a longer UK menu that meets the needs of our customers here by extending the range of products available to breakfast, lunch and dinner. We continue to test new menu items to ensure that we are always delivering excitement for our customers too.
What have been the major milestones for Tim Hortons in the UK to date?
We have now opened over 75 restaurants across major towns and cities across the UK in just six years and we continue to generate positive response among communities – with some fans camped outside Tim Hortons restaurants for up to 40 hours ahead of opening.
Throughout this journey we’ve achieved some incredible successes, including The Park Royal London opening in 2022 which was one of Tim Hortons’ most successful in the UK to date, as well as one of the best globally in the last five years.
We have recently had great success in growing brand awareness, partly due to our digital focus, which will remain a mainstay in the customer journey. Our self-order kiosks have also been a big success for the brand and have boosted customer engagement.
What are the key aspects of your ‘refined’ franchise model and how will it enable Tim Hortons to achieve accelerated UK outlet growth?
In the first five years of the brand launch, we invested in a test and learn phase. During this time, we tested several store formats across the UK market. This phase is now complete, and we have arrived at a refined operating model that has an attractive commercial return. Along with this, we have spent the last two years building the infrastructure required to support franchisees, and we are now looking forward to engaging with a selection of new franchise partners on this exciting journey.
We believe that a successful franchising model is a core foundation to build and scale the Tim Hortons brand in the UK and we are in a great place as a brand to start on this exciting journey now.
The Park Royal London | Photo credit: Tim Hortons
Drive-thru currently makes up 75% of Tim Hortons’ UK footprint. Will the format continue to be the main driver of outlet growth?
We have developed a strong operational model and opened 60 drive-thru sites in total, 34 since the beginning of 2022. We believe that this business channel will be a mainstay opportunity for prospective franchise partners as we look ahead to the future.
The competition for drive-thru sites is high, and operators need to focus on delivering high-quality product experiences at speed to ensure they meet consumer expectations. At Tim Hortons we work tirelessly to continuously improve and to deliver against these needs.
What market factors will drive Tim Hortons’ strategy in the UK going forward?
We have opened approximately 20-25 sites every year across the UK for the past three years, and we intend to continue our brand expansion at a similar scale and pace. We want to invest the next three years in making sure that franchisees are successful with us, as well as opening corporate sites.
It is also important that we continue to listen to our customers to ensure we’re constantly evolving to meet their needs.
We know that consumers are becoming more conscious of spending and as a result, consider quality and value before making a purchase or deciding where to dine. Consumers are looking for venues that deliver excellent menu choice throughout the day and our drive-thru outlets can certainly support that. They have multipurpose use and are accessible to customers for all drinking and dining occasions.
Kevin Hydes is Chief Commercial Officer at Tim Hortons UK & Ireland