I am in a flurry of motion. Tapping my feet, checking my watch every 0.62 seconds, I throw several anxious glances at the customs officer. Come on. I have a bus to catch at noon, and it’s already 11:40 a.m. Ten agonizing minutes later, I’m through the gates and rushing through the arrivals hall to the bus terminal. That’s when I see it.
Inside SPAR, an Irish convenience store, is a Tim Hortons coffee machine and doughnut rack.
For a split second, I smile, immediately thinking of Canada. But then that second’s gone, replaced by ‘Oprah say what?’ thoughts as I wander into the store. If I were more daft, I’d probably prod the machine. As it is, I’m gobsmacked. A Tim Hortons in Ireland of all places? It doesn’t make sense. The machine with the bold brand name on it flutters its eyelashes innocuously at me.
I didn’t have time to buy any of the Timbits on sale, or issue a firestorm questionnaire at the salesclerk, but as I sat on the bus, watching Irish cityscape and countryside slide by, I mused rather sadly, “I thought Tim Hortons was supposed to be Canadian.”
Is it so bad to want a company to just be national or even local? Why do so many companies have to become global? With so many businesses hungry for expansion, one of the ways to stand out is to stay true to your roots and cater to a smaller, more specific audience.
There was once a time when Americans had to make the trip up over the border to enjoy Timbits.
There’s still a strong appreciation for local and national brands like that family-run fish-and-chips store. With smaller establishments, your experience is much more intimate; you might be friends with the owner or know the history of the place right from its very beginning.
Likewise, there’s something special about seeing a Tim Hortons branch and feeling that familiar bloom of Canadian pride — after all, it was founded by a very famous Canadian hockey player.
It’s definitely not McDonalds, which you can find in even the most remote places of the world. I don’t know about you, but I go into Tim Hortons feeling more chipper than when I go to McDonalds, possibly because I subconsciously associate it with Canada more than McDonalds, but possibly also because I love their white hot chocolate so goddamned much!
Currently, Tim Hortons is a larger food service operator in Canada than McDonalds, bringing in more than one-fifth of the nation-wide fast food revenue — which is quite an achievement! There was once a time when Americans had to make the trip over the border to enjoy some Timbits; now, there are around 800 branches in the States.
With Tim Hortons’ recent sell-out to the American owned Burger King, the current plan to set up more branches elsewhere in the world and become a global superstar could eventually bury its Canadian roots. Fellow customers will nod automatically and indulgently at the reminiscent old geezer insisting that Tim Hortons used to be solely Canadian.
Tim Hortons is often seen as a symbol of Canadian identity, much like the maple leaf or hockey. The company has woven itself into the Canadian fabric, and I would hate to see it become a stitch on other countries’ quilts.
Please, don’t let Tim Hortons become the next Dunkin’ Donuts. Call me selfish, but Tim Hortons shouldn’t be shared with the world. If the world wants it, they can come to Canada, and find us Canadians already at the counter.