5 Reasons Tim Hortons Sucks

For those of you unaware, Tim Hortons is an international1 coffee & donut shop co-founded by Tim Horton, a Canadian Hockey player (who died when he lost control of his 1974 Pantera at 100mph, while under the influence of alcohol and pain killers). By feeding off it’s inherently Canadian origins, combined with massive expansion, clever marketing and sponsorships Tim Hortons has managed to inject itself as key part of Canadiana – up there with Hockey Night In Canada, curling, cheap beer and The CBC.

Tim Hortons has done such an excellent job marketing their “Canadian-ness,” that many Canadians literally feel that it’s their patriotic duty to patronize the restaurant.

I am not one of those Canadians. Tim Hortons sucks!

1. Tim Hortons coffee is terrible!

A lot of Canadians hold Tim Hortons coffee in high esteem, “it’s great, like Canadian beer”. Most Canadians are probably only familiar with the “double-double” (2 shots of cream and 2 sugars). But really, almost any black coloured beverage would taste pretty OK with that much cream and sugar. I prefer my coffee black. I’ve tried to drink Tim Hortons coffee without cream or sugar, it’s completely unbearable. It actually tastes like the unbrewed grounds are just suspended in hot water.

As far as I understand, when a coffee actually tastes better with cream and sugar it indicates a cheaper bean. But, the Tim Hortons double-double has such a distinct taste, I think they’re actually trying to achieve a specific flavour profile that only works with cream and sugar. It does not taste like your standard cheap coffee bean + cream + sugar. It doesn’t exactly taste any better or worse really, just different, almost unnatural. I think this is how they convince the masses that such a poor quality product is actually “good.”

Tim Hortons’ recent foray into espresso based beverages has had even more terrifying results. My advice: just stay away.

2. Their food is hardly “always fresh”

For at least the past 15 – 20 years, Tim Hortons has used the slogan “Always Fresh.” Originally – back in the days when they were competing with mom & pop’s and truck stops – it was a guarantee that their coffee was never allowed to sit for more than 20 minutes. I’ve personally witnessed customers being served coffee older than 20 minutes, but that’s beside the point. The only thing worse than Tim Hortons coffee is Tim Hortons coffee that’s been sitting around for 30 minutes, no amount of cream and sugar can fix that.

Lately, the slogan is also being used to imply that their baked goods and food products are also always fresh. Nothing could be future from the truth. Fact is, as of 2001, Tim Hortons actually par-bakes their product in a central location in Brantford, Ontario2. Where they are then frozen and shipped to Tim Hortons stores across the world. Once they reach the store, the final touches – like fillings, sprinkles, etc – are added and the goods are baked in a highly visible oven, giving customers the impression that they’ve been make from scratch in store.

By Tim Hortons’ definition the frozen pizza I had for supper was also fresh!

The small stand-alone locations in airports, hospitals, etc are even worse. They don’t even usually contain the equipment to do the finish baking, so they have to import the products from other Tim Hortons stores.

As for their actual food – soups, sandwiches, etc – these are no more fresh than anything you would expect at any other fast food restaurant.

3. Tim Hortons is not Canadian owned

As of August 8th, 1995, Tim Hortons has been owned by the US-based Wendy’s3.

That means, buying Tim Hortons is no more Canadian than any other franchised restaurant.

As an interesting aside, the company that does the par-baking for Tim Hortons is a Irish subsidiary of a Swiss multinational4.

4. Inefficient Service

Tim Hortons seems to have a complete and utter lack of knowledge when it comes to food service efficiency. The main problem would seem to be the lack of a standard fast food assembly-line type process, combined with poor/non-standarized store layout.

Never having been an employee of Tim Hortons, I don’t know what their manul dictates. But, these observations appear to be standard partices:

  • When you place an order, the same employee (“Cashier”) that enters your order and takes your money, is also responsable for preparing your order and handing it to you.
  • If you’re only ordering a coffee and a donut this generally works fine – donuts and coffee makers are generally within arms reach of the cash register. Service is fairly quick.
  • If the coffee maker runs out, the Cashier is responsible for refilling the beans – before bringing you your order! This obviously slows down the entire queue.
  • If your order includes anything other than a coffee and a donut – like a soft drink, specialty coffee beverage, bagel, “meal,” etc, the system completely breaks down! These items are generally not within arms reach of the front counter. While the bagels and sandwiches do have dedicated crew members, the preparation stations are often in inefficient locations (depending on store layout) causing the receiving process to be somewhat awkward. Either the cashier will bring these items to you, or you are expected to wait in a cafeteria style line, or you simply wait off to the side. It’s near chaos.
  • The specialty coffee beverages (iced caps, iced mochas, lattes, etc) are made by the cashier. Depending on the drink, this involves 3 to 5 steps, including stiring by hand! These stations are typically not located near the front counter. It’s not uncommon for a Cashier to take a minute or two to make these drinks.
  • During peak times, when a cashier is busy compiling a customer’s order, another employee will take the cashier’s place and begin on the next customer’s order. Depending on the layout of the store and the number of employees, this can sometimes delay the simpler coffee & donut orders by causing bottlenecks around the coffee stations.

I’m not an expert on fast food restaurant efficiency. It just seems to me that Tim Hortons is one of the most inefficient fast food operations. They need to re-organize the way they handle and deliver orders.

5. Cups Are Not Recyclable5

Tim Hortons uses a wax lined cup that is only recyclable in 3 small Canadian Cities: Moncton, NB; Windsor, ON; and Owen Sound, ON6. Also, Tim Hortons cups do not contain any recycled materials.

Tim Hortons may or may not be the only chain in Canada that uses this type of cup. But they are particularly bad for 2 reasons. 1) Their annual RRRRRoll Up The Rim contest. For those of you non-Canadians, this contest involves a prize being printed on the inside of the paper cup’s rolled up rim. While the contest is running, customer “eating-in” who would normally have their coffee poured into a reusable ceramic mug are given an additional contest cup. 2) “Double-cupping” seems to be a fairly common practice at Tim Hortons across the country. This is when the Tim Hortons employee will put an additional paper cup around the first cup to insulate your hand from the hot beverage. Apparently the concept of a paper sleeve has not caught on with the Tim Hortons Brass.

Recycling and environmentalism is a way of life for many Canadians. It’s completely unacceptable for such a “Canadian” company to have such irresonsable practices.

In conclusion, Tim Hortons is anti-Canadian!!7


Footnotes:

  1. It’s not common knowledge that they have locations in US, Ireland and UK. Check the Wikipedia entry.
  2. See this press release: www.timhortons.com/en/about/news_archive_2001f.html
  3. CBC Archive: archives.cbc.ca/on_this_day/08/08/
  4. The bakery is called Maidstone Bakery. I had to dig through the internet archive to find the page: web.archive.org/web/20080115134215/http://www.wendys-invest.com/timhortons.php The parent company can be found here: www.iaws.ie I’m pretty sure this company is the subject of an AIM Trimark commercial, but that’s another blog post.
  5. This blog post goes into great detail: www.buzzbishop.com/blog/2008/02/25/rrroll-up-the-un-recyclable-rim/, Tim Hortons own FAQ also concedes the fact, but tries to put a positive spin on it, stating that they are working to get more recyling plants built – rather than actually doing something on their end! www.timhortons.com/en/about/faq.html
  6. Tim Hortons helped build this recycling plant!!! (see their FAQ linked above)
  7. That said, I don’t really feel that any of these points are reasons NOT to visit Tim Hortons. I just feel like Canadians need to understand that Tim Hortons is not all that great and there’s definitely nothing Canadian about it. A lot of people I know enjoy going to Tim Horton and I will continue to join them, I just choose not to visit when the choice is mine.

488 comments

  1. I also dislike Tim Hortons coffee, like you said it tastes nothing like normal coffee, this is because they don’t use 100% Arabica beans, they use a cheaper, inferior bean.
    Also I’m originally from Owen Sound, but didn’t realize that facility existed. Howver Owen Sound has nine Tim Horton’s locations, which seems excessive for a city of only 20,000 people.

  2. I also dislike Tim Hortons coffee, like you said it tastes nothing like normal coffee, this is because they don’t use 100% Arabica beans, they use a cheaper, inferior bean.
    Also I’m originally from Owen Sound, but didn’t realize that facility existed. Howver Owen Sound has nine Tim Horton’s locations, which seems excessive for a city of only 20,000 people.

  3. It’s true. Every word of it. Then again, I also dislike Tim Horton’s and laugh when people attempt to glorify it and at the same time villify Starbucks. I don’t know that I’m particularly pro-Starbucks, but they do brew a damn fine cup of coffee (I also only drink coffee black) for roughly the same price as Tim Horton’s and at least make an ATTEMPT at fair trade and ethical business practices.

  4. It’s true. Every word of it. Then again, I also dislike Tim Horton’s and laugh when people attempt to glorify it and at the same time villify Starbucks. I don’t know that I’m particularly pro-Starbucks, but they do brew a damn fine cup of coffee (I also only drink coffee black) for roughly the same price as Tim Horton’s and at least make an ATTEMPT at fair trade and ethical business practices.

    1. I love Tim Horton’s, and I love my job. But the reason you love the bagels is because regular bagels are made of 2 different starches where as timmies is made with 4 and is more un healthy than the average bagel. we all know the wose the food is for you, (generally) the better the taste. heck, we aren’t eating it because it’s good for us!

  5. A little bit of research goes a long way.

    As of September 28, 2006, Wendy’s sold their shares in Tim Hortons and Tim Hortons became a publicly traded company.

    Maidstone Bakery is a joint venture between Tim Hortons and Cuisine de France (owned by IAWS which is now part of Aryzta).

  6. A little bit of research goes a long way.

    As of September 28, 2006, Wendy’s sold their shares in Tim Hortons and Tim Hortons became a publicly traded company.

    Maidstone Bakery is a joint venture between Tim Hortons and Cuisine de France (owned by IAWS which is now part of Aryzta).

  7. Good article Ryan. I feel much the same about Tim Hortons and hadn’t had their coffee for the longest time until recently. Unfortunately other factors have changed and much to my disappontment Tim Hortons is the best coffee I can get when I’m not at home!

    I’m glad someone else is putting these issues out there, the “Always Fresh” and recycling issues are a big thing in mind, people need to know about them, too many Canadians remain “blissfully” unaware of this.

  8. Good article Ryan. I feel much the same about Tim Hortons and hadn’t had their coffee for the longest time until recently. Unfortunately other factors have changed and much to my disappontment Tim Hortons is the best coffee I can get when I’m not at home!

    I’m glad someone else is putting these issues out there, the “Always Fresh” and recycling issues are a big thing in mind, people need to know about them, too many Canadians remain “blissfully” unaware of this.

  9. I think you all have way too much time on your hands. And this original post is very obviously authorized by someone who has some grudge against Tim Hortons. I think their coffee is great and it is obvious that a majority of people do too or they would not be so successful.

  10. I think you all have way too much time on your hands. And this original post is very obviously authorized by someone who has some grudge against Tim Hortons. I think their coffee is great and it is obvious that a majority of people do too or they would not be so successful.

  11. I gave my 2 weeks notice after 2 weeks working there. I was shocked when I learned about their wasteful practices. Absolutely nothing is fresh over there and look how much waste is generated! Coffee is the only remotely fresh product but it comes in a sack. The worst one is the chili: It comes in a bag that you boil in water (fortunately I didn’t stay long enough to do that). And it makes me sick to see all the brainwashed people working there. And having to wear a cap indoors is also a brainwashing tool because you accept to bear the piece of crap logo on your forehead. Seeing how vain of a person I am, the clothes you had to wear and the repetitive nature of the work made me look like a zombie at the end of my shift.

  12. I gave my 2 weeks notice after 2 weeks working there. I was shocked when I learned about their wasteful practices. Absolutely nothing is fresh over there and look how much waste is generated! Coffee is the only remotely fresh product but it comes in a sack. The worst one is the chili: It comes in a bag that you boil in water (fortunately I didn’t stay long enough to do that). And it makes me sick to see all the brainwashed people working there. And having to wear a cap indoors is also a brainwashing tool because you accept to bear the piece of crap logo on your forehead. Seeing how vain of a person I am, the clothes you had to wear and the repetitive nature of the work made me look like a zombie at the end of my shift.

  13. I’m so happy I found this website! I thought I was losing my mind when I turned my nose up at a cup of Timmyhos coffee. In 2007 I unfortunately found myself spending most of my time at the Victoria General Hospital visiting my dying mother, coffee and food was a necessity! The ONLY option I had (without leaving the hospital) was a Tim Hortons located in the hospital lobby. I ordered a cup, wasn’t actually allowed to put my own sugar in it…. that pissed me off, then when I tasted the coffee I dam near gagged, it was the most disgusting coffee I ever had. I had also made the mistake of purchasing one of those fresh sandwiches. I would have been better off just taking my $12 and throwing it in the garbage because that’s where the coffee and the sandwich ended up.

    Needless to say, I got my coffee at a Chevron prior to coming to the hospital from then on.

  14. I’m so happy I found this website! I thought I was losing my mind when I turned my nose up at a cup of Timmyhos coffee. In 2007 I unfortunately found myself spending most of my time at the Victoria General Hospital visiting my dying mother, coffee and food was a necessity! The ONLY option I had (without leaving the hospital) was a Tim Hortons located in the hospital lobby. I ordered a cup, wasn’t actually allowed to put my own sugar in it…. that pissed me off, then when I tasted the coffee I dam near gagged, it was the most disgusting coffee I ever had. I had also made the mistake of purchasing one of those fresh sandwiches. I would have been better off just taking my $12 and throwing it in the garbage because that’s where the coffee and the sandwich ended up.

    Needless to say, I got my coffee at a Chevron prior to coming to the hospital from then on.

  15. Oh! I forgot to mention, the reason I found this website was because I was searching for the Coffee maker that Tim Hortons sells, I liked the fact that it’s instant hot water and brewing time is not long. Thanks to Ryan and this information I will be buying a BUNN Coffee maker!

  16. Oh! I forgot to mention, the reason I found this website was because I was searching for the Coffee maker that Tim Hortons sells, I liked the fact that it’s instant hot water and brewing time is not long. Thanks to Ryan and this information I will be buying a BUNN Coffee maker!

  17. @ C Nelson

    If you want really amazing coffee, and a cheap coffee maker, stick with a French Press. Once you get the portions down right, best coffee you’ll ever taste.

    I only recommend that you spend a bit on a coffee grinder, which of course implies that you buy coffee beans and grind them yourself. Keeps everything much fresher.

  18. @ C Nelson

    If you want really amazing coffee, and a cheap coffee maker, stick with a French Press. Once you get the portions down right, best coffee you’ll ever taste.

    I only recommend that you spend a bit on a coffee grinder, which of course implies that you buy coffee beans and grind them yourself. Keeps everything much fresher.

  19. Tim Horton’s is like a 4 star restaurant to those who line up for their crappy,overpriced coffee and revolting,inedible food,day after day,week after week.
    I mean,waiting in line at 7:30 in the morning for 20 mins for the substandard fare…it can only mean that the masses never get out,except to Tim’s,and by eating their excessively priced,cardboard/masking tape flavored food,must think it is the best stuff they’ve ever tasted….it boggles my mind how anyone could eat their hard,small,rudimentary,expensive sandwiches again and again. Someone bought me one once for lunch and I was so dissapointed in what $7 got me..I cannot understand what the attraction is. People must like crap!

  20. Tim Horton’s is like a 4 star restaurant to those who line up for their crappy,overpriced coffee and revolting,inedible food,day after day,week after week.
    I mean,waiting in line at 7:30 in the morning for 20 mins for the substandard fare…it can only mean that the masses never get out,except to Tim’s,and by eating their excessively priced,cardboard/masking tape flavored food,must think it is the best stuff they’ve ever tasted….it boggles my mind how anyone could eat their hard,small,rudimentary,expensive sandwiches again and again. Someone bought me one once for lunch and I was so dissapointed in what $7 got me..I cannot understand what the attraction is. People must like crap!

  21. Fresh! definitely not! Convenient, yes. This is the only marketing that keeps them in business. Licence to print Canadian money (which much of it leaves Canada) for the owners and franchise, without a care for the employees.
    Today, I will start my legal campaign against the unfair treatment that I have been a practice of, and have seen many people abused at many Tim Horton’s.

    Many employees that work at Tim Horton’s do not know how to protect themselves against a giant like this. Well I am 37 years old ex business executive that decided to too take a job at a local Tim Horton’s store from looking at there wonderful adds at what a great working environment that Tim Horton’s provides. I followed all the rules set out in there training administered by TDL Group. My story it seems has just started. The outcome of this story will be decided in the future.

    I am no longer an employee.

  22. Fresh! definitely not! Convenient, yes. This is the only marketing that keeps them in business. Licence to print Canadian money (which much of it leaves Canada) for the owners and franchise, without a care for the employees.
    Today, I will start my legal campaign against the unfair treatment that I have been a practice of, and have seen many people abused at many Tim Horton’s.

    Many employees that work at Tim Horton’s do not know how to protect themselves against a giant like this. Well I am 37 years old ex business executive that decided to too take a job at a local Tim Horton’s store from looking at there wonderful adds at what a great working environment that Tim Horton’s provides. I followed all the rules set out in there training administered by TDL Group. My story it seems has just started. The outcome of this story will be decided in the future.

    I am no longer an employee.

  23. alright,
    as a customer and employee, I have to say…
    1) How are we supposed to stir your drinks?
    2) coffee at the tim hortons i work at is always 20mins. fresh
    3)Tim Horton was never under the influence and wasn’t on pain killers when he died.

  24. alright,
    as a customer and employee, I have to say…
    1) How are we supposed to stir your drinks?
    2) coffee at the tim hortons i work at is always 20mins. fresh
    3)Tim Horton was never under the influence and wasn’t on pain killers when he died.

  25. Our coffee tastes fine, we have many customers who drink it black, and most of us who work there check that it is 20 minutes fresh. If they paid more, and rude customers didn’t scare off the new kids, service might not suck so bad, but training at tim hortons is not adequate, and employees quit very often, we have new employees aren’t as fast. Some of our sandwitches are good, but aren’t fresh, and I have felt sick after eating mushroom soup and the chicken club. The mushroom soup is aweful, and I we are doing customers a favour when we run out. The worst thing about the job is that some of the people who complain to me because they think I can change how bad our store sucks. It is an international company, I can’t change our store, complain to somebody with authority.

  26. Our coffee tastes fine, we have many customers who drink it black, and most of us who work there check that it is 20 minutes fresh. If they paid more, and rude customers didn’t scare off the new kids, service might not suck so bad, but training at tim hortons is not adequate, and employees quit very often, we have new employees aren’t as fast. Some of our sandwitches are good, but aren’t fresh, and I have felt sick after eating mushroom soup and the chicken club. The mushroom soup is aweful, and I we are doing customers a favour when we run out. The worst thing about the job is that some of the people who complain to me because they think I can change how bad our store sucks. It is an international company, I can’t change our store, complain to somebody with authority.

  27. im 15 almost 16 and i dont drink coffe so i cannot disagree or agree with you on how bad the coffee is. I’ve been working at Timmys for about a month now and i really understand your inefficiency points. However, i find it somewhat ridiculous whn you write something like “The specialty coffee beverages (iced caps, iced mochas, lattes, etc) are made by the cashier. Depending on the drink, this involves 3 to 5 steps, including stiring by hand!”

    stop for a second, look back and please tell me why complaining about a cashier taking 3 to 5 steps is correct.

    thats all
    thanks

  28. im 15 almost 16 and i dont drink coffe so i cannot disagree or agree with you on how bad the coffee is. I’ve been working at Timmys for about a month now and i really understand your inefficiency points. However, i find it somewhat ridiculous whn you write something like “The specialty coffee beverages (iced caps, iced mochas, lattes, etc) are made by the cashier. Depending on the drink, this involves 3 to 5 steps, including stiring by hand!”

    stop for a second, look back and please tell me why complaining about a cashier taking 3 to 5 steps is correct.

    thats all
    thanks

  29. Strong marketing and updating of buildings has made Tim’s the largest coffee chain in Canada. They’ve managed to destroy any competition, like Robbin’s, Coffee Time etc…That’s why there is a constant stream of vehicles in every Tim’s drive through. I agree with the comments about the quality of their products…..a survey has proven that even McDonald’s coffee rated higher than Tim’s. Their baked goods arrive to each shop frozen. Their breakfast tastes like cardboard. Marketing is a strong tool and you don’t have to have the best tasting product to generate huge sales. Does McDonald’s have the the best tasting burgers?

    Tim’s needs some competition. They have a monopoly in the coffee industry in Canada.

    1. Really, the only real competition they have is StarBucks, and they’re just meh. Robins is still pretty big down here in the Martimes though, but they pretty much destroyed them elsewhere

  30. Strong marketing and updating of buildings has made Tim’s the largest coffee chain in Canada. They’ve managed to destroy any competition, like Robbin’s, Coffee Time etc…That’s why there is a constant stream of vehicles in every Tim’s drive through. I agree with the comments about the quality of their products…..a survey has proven that even McDonald’s coffee rated higher than Tim’s. Their baked goods arrive to each shop frozen. Their breakfast tastes like cardboard. Marketing is a strong tool and you don’t have to have the best tasting product to generate huge sales. Does McDonald’s have the the best tasting burgers?

    Tim’s needs some competition. They have a monopoly in the coffee industry in Canada.

  31. Bunch of whiners, lol. The taste of Hortons coffee depends on the location. It’s that simple. There are a few in my area that brew it perfectly. The rest make dishwater or acid.

    Starbucks is the most overrated product EVER. And talk about overpriced. I brew my own coffee at home using organic beans, s I know good tasting java. Starbucks is vile, no matter the location. And it’s even worse when it’s been sitting in their plastic carafes, getting lukewarm. Yuk.

    Most people base all their opinions on what they hear other people say or one single experience. I don’t trust what any of the complainers here say, that’s for sure! Their sandwiches are awesome, too, btw. If you don’t like them, make your own. Simple, eh?

  32. Bunch of whiners, lol. The taste of Hortons coffee depends on the location. It’s that simple. There are a few in my area that brew it perfectly. The rest make dishwater or acid.

    Starbucks is the most overrated product EVER. And talk about overpriced. I brew my own coffee at home using organic beans, s I know good tasting java. Starbucks is vile, no matter the location. And it’s even worse when it’s been sitting in their plastic carafes, getting lukewarm. Yuk.

    Most people base all their opinions on what they hear other people say or one single experience. I don’t trust what any of the complainers here say, that’s for sure! Their sandwiches are awesome, too, btw. If you don’t like them, make your own. Simple, eh?

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