Tim’s sales miss analyst expectations
Restaurant Brands International Inc. is blaming weakness in the cold beverage and lunchtime sandwich categories for a surprise drop in comparable store sales at its Tim Hortons restaurant chain, which in 2018 unveiled a sweeping plan to improve profitability for franchise owners.
Toronto-based RBI on Monday said Tim Hortons’ same store sales posted a 1.4 per cent annual decline in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 versus analyst forecasts for a 0.93 per cent uptick — and nine per cent same store sales growth across the company. RBI’s other properties, Popeyes and Burger King, beat expectations and Tim Hortons, which accounts for about 60 per cent of Restaurant Brands’ total revenue, was again the laggard.
Tim Hortons seems to be slower to adapt amid increasing competition from global coffee houses, Pacific Management Consulting Group analyst John Gordon said in a note to investors. The company has been sprucing up its Tim Hortons outlets and adding new coffee and lunch offerings, while rolling out breakfast sandwiches with Beyond Meat’s plant-based sausages in select Canadian cities, but it appears those efforts have yet to bear fruit. Tim Hortons removed Beyond Meat burgers from its menu in September, two months after introducing the alternative-protein product on a trial basis at most of its nearly 4,000 locations across the country.
“We saw some initial excitement around the product. But we launched it as a limited-time offer and when that window ran we decided it was best to take it off the menu and maybe consider other alternatives down the road,” said RBI CEO Jose Cil.
During the third quarter, meanwhile, the plant-based Impossible Whopper propelled Burger King to its best comparable sales increase in four years, while Popeyes saw sales boom amid a chicken sandwich craze.
Facing fallout from negative media coverage generated by a group of dissident franchise owners, and calls from some quarters for more innovative product offerings, Tim Hortons in April 2018 launched its “Winning Together” plan to improve the customer experience. The plan includes promotion of the Tim Hortons app, a new marketing campaign extolling the virtue of connecting with neighbours over a coffee, and renovating restaurants.
On an earnings conference call, however, Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein suggested some impatience with the plan’s progress. “At what milestone will you question the confidence of the Winning Together plan?” he asked Cil, who responded by saying, “We remain extremely confident with the Winning Together plan. These things [don’t] happen quarter over quarter. It takes time.”
In its earnings report, RBI posted a nearly five per cent year-over-year increase in same store sales at Burger King locations in the U.S., crediting the launch of the Impossible Whopper for the improvement. Burger King announced in August that it would start selling the plant-based version of its signature burger nationwide after a successful test run in seven markets. It had started selling the soy-based burgers, which are made by Impossible Foods, in April.
RBI also said that Popeyes had comparable sales growth of more than 10 per cent in the U.S., one of its best quarters in almost two decades.
The chain offered a chicken sandwich over the summer and announced Monday that the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich will be back on its menus on Sunday.
Restaurant Brands reported overall revenue grew six per cent to $1.46 billion (U.S.) last quarter, up from $1.38 billion during the same period last year.
Strong performances from Burger King and Popeyes helped offset weakness at Tim Hortons.