Tim Hor­tons says its China ex­pan­sion will in­clude menu with con­gee, matcha

The Western Star - - HEROES / BUSINESS - BY TARA DESCHAMPS

The president of Tim Hor­tons says a plan to con­quer a crowded Chi­nese cof­fee mar­ket hinges on tai­lor­ing its menu to lo­cal habits and tastes - in­clud­ing of­fer­ing con­gee and matcha along­side sig­na­ture items like dou­ble dou­bles.

Alex Macedo be­lieves the cof­fee chain’s plan to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade will face lofty com­pe­ti­tion from a slew of com­pa­nies who have dom­i­nated the mar­ket as the con­ti­nent warms to drink­ing cof­fee.

“We are late to the game for sure,” Macedo said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press.

He’s made reg­u­lar trips to Asia to ob­serve the op­er­a­tions of ri­val cof­fee pur­vey­ors, in­clud­ing U.S. heavy­weights Star­bucks, McDon­ald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts; Bei­jing-based start-up Luckin Cof­fee; and U.K. chain Costa Cof­fee.

“They cre­ated an at­mos­phere that is al­most get in and get out, and it is very fast paced,” he said, not­ing the ta­bles and am­bi­ence dif­fer from that in Cana­dian and U.S. cafes, where pa­trons tend to sit and linger with their cup of java.

China’s cof­fee­house at­mos­phere con­trasts against the “home-y” feel­ing that Macedo wants to build to en­cour­age cus­tomers to spend as much as time as they’d like at Tim Hor­tons Asian lo­ca­tions, a cus­tom pop­u­lar with many Cana­dian Tims regulars.

“We want our team mem­bers to be the most wel­com­ing staff in China,” said Macedo. “We want peo­ple to be able to sit in our res­tau­rants for 10 hours if they want to with only one cup of cof­fee if they want to or not or­der­ing a cup of cof­fee at all.”

The com­pany’s cof­fee has al­ready proven pop­u­lar in early over­seas test­ing, he said, as have the brand’s iced cap­puc­cino drinks.

They will be fea­tured on the menu along­side prod­ucts fea­tur­ing matcha - a tea-based pow­der that comes in a bright green hue and is a peren­nial favourite in Asia.

The food se­lec­tion will re­flect lo­cal taste pref­er­ences, he said, adding the com­pany has no­ticed Chi­nese con­sumers don’t eat baked goods or doughnuts as fre­quently as Cana­di­ans.

A com­pletely lo­cal break­fast and lunch menu will fea­ture Asian-style rice por­ridge called con­gee. “A lot of (Asian) cof­fee shops will sell a piece of cake or what­ever, but they don’t have a kitchen like we do, so that is where we are spend­ing most of our time, try­ing to fig­ure out what to serve for break­fast and lunch,” he said.

De­spite some of the ad­just­ments the brand will have to make, food industry expert Robert Carter thinks the ex­pan­sion makes sense because China’s grow­ing mid­dle class is will­ing to spend their in­creased wealth on eat­ing out, and more peo­ple are start­ing to drink cof­fee over tea.

How­ever, Carter be­lieves Tim Hor­tons needs to find a bal­ance be­tween serv­ing lo­cal cui­sine and sig­na­ture Tim Hor­tons treats in or­der to suc­ceed in China.

He pointed to one menu item in par­tic­u­lar: iced cof­fees.

Re­search, he said, in­di­cates it is the fastest-grow­ing area for cof­fee, par­tic­u­larly with younger con­sumers.

“They will try traditiona­l brewed cof­fees, but it is re­ally those cof­fee-based, sug­ary bev­er­ages that are driv­ing them into cof­fee shops, not only in China, but in North Amer­ica,” he said.

“I would ex­pect Tims to have a pretty ag­gres­sive port­fo­lio with those types of bev­er­ages.”

Tims an­nounced an agree­ment last month with pri­vate eq­uity firm Carte­sian Cap­i­tal to bring thou­sands of res­tau­rants to China, with plans to open the first lo­ca­tion in 2019.

Tim Hor­tons has pre­vi­ously an­nounced plans to ex­pand to Spain, Mex­ico, Great Bri­tain and the Philip­pines.

Its U.S. ex­pan­sion, how­ever, ap­pears to be fal­ter­ing.

CP PHOTO

Alex Maced, president of Tim Hor­tons, on Thurs­day.

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