Tim Horton’s is a staple of Canada’s coffee and doughnuts business. Founded in 1964, the company has expanded globally, including the UAE which saw its first store open in 2011.
All industries are engaged in innovation projects, and for those of us who simply want to start the morning with a coffee will have seen our coffee experience develop over the years: gone are the days of a one-coffee-fits-all approach, with customers able to choose from six coffee varieties, brewed in various ways.
Hesham Almekkawi, CEO at Tim Horton’s MENA, tasked with growing the brand across the region, says that his chief strategy is innovation - and he has form:
“Tim Horton’s was the first company to introduce an application for ordering drinks which you can pick up or have delivered to your table in-store.”
The chain is riding on a boom that has also seen entrepreneurs in the region keen to open coffee shops of their own. Tim Horton’s builds on a much-loved brand with history, a reputation for quality and likeability. For this reason, Almekkawi says the company has to protect its reputation:
“We are probably the only brand that can claim one hundred percent to ethically source our coffee beans, because we are transparent where we get it from. In the roastery, they taste over 300 cups of coffee a day, just to make sure that the quality of the coffee is right. This process makes sure that the customer gets an ethically sourced, properly made drink. Taken together, that is what gives Tim Horton's differentiation the competition.”
Tim Horton’s has grown particularly quickly in the last three years, and now operates across 193 outlets in five MENA countries - growing to seven as Egypt and Kuwait open stores. The goal is to reach 500 restaurants and become one of the region’s top brands.
Almekkawi says that the position gives the business an opportunity to have a positive impact, such as the smiley cookies, which raise money for children with serious illnesses. But it’s not just about what the company does with its money, it is about how it behaves:
“We do workshops on sign language, our customers love to actually interact with our employees. And there are one-off events that we participate in and sponsor, or we provide food and beverages for needy kids. This is how we connect with society and the community as well.”
With product and people covered, technology is the next area for Tim Horton’s to develop. Almekkawi says that introducing the app has changed the way the company communicates with customers:
“Technology for us is just not something that we have to have, but how we can listen to the customers. We are relaunching the app completely because we listen to the customers on the functionality of the app and what they need. This means improving ease of ordering, adding in games and changing our entire loyalty program. We believe that if you don't innovate, you'll fall behind.”
It is this innovation that drives the industry forward:
“Today the coffee market is totally totally different and the variety is absolutely fantastic. What we are doing today with the brand is launching a new era for Tim Horton’s in the region.”