Does Tim Hortons need an innovation cafe?
There’s something that feels classic and old-fashioned about the experience of getting coffee and a doughnut. That might be changing, though, as another doughnut chain begins experimenting with going gourmet and high-tech.
Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons has announced the launch of an “innovation cafe” in the space below its head office in downtown Toronto. The location will be used to test new tech initiatives and menu items for a potential broader rollout.
The cafe features a brew bar with seven different brewing options, seven different milk and milk alternative choices, drinks like “blueberry lavender lemonade” and a program that offers different single-source coffees available on a schedule. It features an enhanced doughnut selection with choices like crème brulee, maple bacon and blueberry hibiscus, as well as similarly foodie-focused sandwich and soup options.
The next-gen store design features a video wall, self-order kiosks, mobile charging at seating areas and a screen with information about the origins of the chain’s single-sourced coffee, along with other topical content.
The Tim Hortons innovation cafe comes a year after the announcement that major U.S. coffee and doughnut chain Dunkin’ was spiffing up its look and feel with a new digitally-upgraded concept store — presumably in part to compete with Starbucks.
Tim Hortons has not been able to reach the level of ubiquity in the U.S. that it has managed in Canada. The chain’s store count has fluctuated in the U.S. since its 2014 acquisition by the parent company of Burger King. The Tim Hortons website states that, as of 2014, the chain had 869 U.S. stores. A 2018 Bloomberg Canada report, however, stated that the chain closed 14 percent of its U.S. locations in a three-year period.
7-Eleven, like Tim Hortons, opened a test store in Dallas with an eye toward developing new strategies for the entire chain. The location features an in-store restaurant and other improvements not currently found in U.S. 7-Elevens.
- Tim Hortons to open the company’s first-of-its-kind innovation café in Toronto – Tim Hortons/PRNewswire Canada
- New store concept is next step in Dunkin’ rebranding – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven to take a page from Starbucks with a cafe concept – RetailWire
- Fresh Facts – Tim Hortons
- Tim Hortons pulls back on U.S. expansion amid franchisee fracas – Bloomberg Canada
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are labs like Tim Hortons innovation cafe overkill for mass retailers/QSR chains or is it good to invest in these sorts of experiments? Do you expect to see much of what gets tested in the innovation cafe rolled out into Tim Horton’s stores?