Tim Hortons might be best known for its coffee and breakfast fare, but it is challenging that perception with a new lineup of lunch sandwiches.
For years the Canadian brand has been tinkering away at its breakfast program with inventive LTOs (Nutella-infused pastries, Apple Fritter Timbits) and a host of permanent items including breakfast panini and grilled wraps. Through the process, the company realized it could take a similar approach to lunch—a daypart that was seeing little traction in the U.S.
“What we’ve been doing for the last five years is essentially putting all of our effort into the morning daypart … to become famous for breakfast,” says Kate Jung, senior director of U.S. marketing for Tim Hortons. “And what we found is that we were becoming famous for care and quality in the breakfast daypart so we’ve learned that we can take that same care and quality and turn it to lunch.”
It was not especially difficult to upgrade lunch. Jung says that operationally little changed. The major difference was the quality of the ingredients, which now include more premium items like smoked Mozzarella, ciabatta bread, and fresh vegetables. Although the new lunch menu includes some new items like the Italiano Grilled Bagel Sandwich, the Bacon Grilled Cheese, and the Avocado BLT, others were merely improved. For example, the top-selling Turkey Bacon Club swapped a standard roll for ciabatta bread, low-fat mayonnaise for all-natural mayonnaise, and added Cheddar cheese. The less successful Tuscan Chicken Panini was replaced by the Mozzarella Pesto Panini—baby spinach, tomatoes, and fresh Mozzarella served on sourdough with a pesto sauce.
“The great thing is they’re no different than what we were doing before, we were making sandwiches at lunch before, it’s just they just weren’t memorable and we weren’t getting a lot of demand for them,” Jung says. She adds that some owners were worried that the new sandwiches would slow them down until they learned that the process would still only take about 30 seconds.
The lunch initiative is, for now, exclusive to U.S. locations, but Jung says the Canadian side is closely watching how the new items are received.
Many Tim Hortons stores are open 24 hours, and this lunch revamp could be the first step in shifting its image from that of a coffee and breakfast spot to an all-day option. Jung also hints that more lunch innovations could be coming down the pipeline soon.
“Consumers are hungry for higher quality, affordable food, conveniently,” Jung says. “We’re really moving from being that favorite breakfast destination and leveraging that quality and care … into this idea that we can be an all-day solution for you where you can get a convenient food without compromising anything.”
By Nicole Duncan