Industry News | October 16, 2009

Tim Hortons Is In the Army Now

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Tim Hortons announced the opening of its new unit on the Fort Knox army base in Kentucky, the Canada-based chain’s first location on a U.S. military base.

The base hosts 30,000 people who either live or work there, including soldiers, family members, and other military personnel. Tim Hortons already has seven units open on Canadian military bases, and also operates a unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“We’ve had relationships with the military throughout our history,” says David Clanachan, chief operations officer of U.S. and international for Tim Hortons. “One of our founders actually was with the Canadian Navy in the Korean War. We’re also on seven different military bases in Canada, so we have that kind of pedigree.”

Clanachan says the brand met six months ago with Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES), which operates restaurant and franchising operations for the U.S. military, among other things.

“Over time we established a relationship, and they encouraged us to work with them and go through a bidding process to win [a location],” he says. Fort Knox was the first one Tim Hortons applied for, Clanachan says, because of its iconic status and history.

The Fort Knox Tim Hortons is 1,500 square feet and is located in a foodcourt. Clanachan says that nontraditional units are very important to the company because they are a chance to bring the brand to the people, instead of the other way around.

“The traditional quick serves always think, ‘build it and they will come,’ but that’s a slower growth pattern,” he says. “What nontraditional locations allow you to do is they allow you to expose your brand and your products, more than anything else, to people each and every day, and make it easier for people to get to those products.”

On a military base, Clanachan believes quick serves especially have an opportunity to deliver their product exactly where the customer needs it.

“You have to find the right brand that fits with the soldiers. We believe that we have the right product mix, the right menu offerings,” he says. “We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The customers on that base, they’re up at 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Operating on a military base, however, is not that different from the normal operations of a quick serve, Clanachan says.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are, you still need to deliver quality products, you need to do it with exceptional service, you’ve got to do it fast and friendly, your prices have got to be right—nothing changes that way,” he says. “The difference is it’s like operating within a small city. You have that built-in audience, and certainly you can drive loyalty much quicker, because there are only so many options that you would have on any given base.”

By Sam Oches