Tim Hortons Unveils its Restaurants of the Future

    The first drive-thru-only stores will open later this summer. 

    Fast Food | June 6, 2022 | Ben Coley
    Tim Hortons prototype.
    Tim Hortons
    The drive-thru-only unit is just 900 square feet.

    Tim Hortons U.S. announced Monday that it's launching two next-generation restaurants fit for the future, joining a wave of quick-service brands looking to cut costs and better meet guests' need for convenience. 

    One is a 900-square-foot drive-thru-only model designed to maximize efficiency and speed of service. The prototype is integrated with Tim Hortons' app, meaning guests can easily order ahead, collect rewards points, and access weekly exclusive offers. The new store also features mobile order parking spots. The other prototype is a 1,600-square-foot restaurant with 24 seats inside. 

    “This is an exciting time for Tim Hortons as we update certain aspects of our model to maximize the experience for Guests and improve efficiency for the operators who are driving our expansion in the U.S.,” Alexandra Caplan, senior manager of business development, said in a statement. “These two restaurant formats allow franchisees to develop a model that fits their local demand. That flexibility is key to growing our brand in various markets.”

    As part of both designs, the menu is simpler, but with new items like refreshers and energy drinks, alongside mainstays such as Iced Capps, doughnuts, Timbits, breakfast sandwiches, and Original Blend and Dark Roast coffee.

    More than 10 new model stores with a dining room have been built since 2020, and another 20-plus will debut before the end of 2022. The first drive-thru only model restaurants will open this summer in several states including West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, and New York.

    “Our guests are looking for great service, high-quality coffee and food, and they want to feel safe when visiting Tim Hortons restaurants. Our new restaurant design offers all of that and more,” Jay Pritchett, head of marketing, said in a statement. “We’ve innovated our restaurant interior to offer a designated mobile order pick-up area. We also offer an inviting and comfortable atmosphere for guests who choose to dine-in and spend time in our restaurants.”

    Tim Hortons' popularity in the U.S. is beginning to expand beyond its heavy presence in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. The brand recently signed a 30-unit deal for Houston and a 15-unit agreement in Atlanta. 

    “Guest experience is at the forefront of every strategy decision, but the flexibility in our model has been a real source of attraction for experienced operators who want to bring Tim Hortons to their region of the U.S.,” Nicolas Henrich, VP of development, franchising, and finance, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to see the early success of these models and the excitement they bring to the franchisees building our momentum for the future.”

    Among Restaurant Brands International's portfolio (Tim Hortons, Burger King, Popeyes, Firehouse Subs), Tim Hortons has the biggest digital mix, finishing at 36 percent of sales in Canada during the first quarter. The brand transformed its notable Roll Up to Win campaign into a driver of digital engagement and sales; in fact, the chain ran two contests last year and added roughly 3 million new members to its rewards program. 

    "Our Tims rewards members tend to be the most loyal members of Tims and the highest frequency," RBI CEO Jose Cil said during the company's Q1 earnings call. "I think the frequency is, I guess, to put it clearly, astounding. It's really incredible how often our Tims rewards members are using our app, how often they come and visit us and go to the stores. And I think one of the other things that we've seen that's been really interesting to our teams here is, is that we see as we deploy new features in the app, things like our hockey challenge, things like Roll Up, we see those guests start to interact with our app even more frequently."

    Tim Hortons Canada saw same-store sales grew 10.1 percent year-over-year in Q1, and declined 6.8 percent on a two-year basis. For the rest of the world, comps slid 1.2 percent versus 2021 and rose 3.9 percent across two years. 

    In the past year, a number of chains have debuted drive-thru-only stores, including big names like Chipotle, Jimmy John's, and Captain D's.