Alex Macedo, president at Tim Hortons poses for a photograph at the Hockey Hall of Fame Tim Hortons location in Toronto on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

Coffee chain plans to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade

The president of Tim Hortons says a plan to conquer a crowded Chinese coffee market hinges on tailoring its menu to local habits and tastes — including offering congee and matcha alongside signature items like double doubles.

Alex Macedo believes the coffee chain’s plan to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade will face lofty competition from a slew of companies who have dominated the market as the continent warms to drinking coffee.

“We are late to the game for sure,” Macedo said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

He’s made regular trips to Asia to observe the operations of rival coffee purveyors, including U.S. heavyweights Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts; Beijing-based start-up Luckin Coffee; and U.K. chain Costa Coffee.

“They created an atmosphere that is almost get in and get out, and it is very fast paced,” he said, noting the tables and ambience differ from that in Canadian and U.S. cafes, where patrons tend to sit and linger with their cup of java.

China’s coffeehouse atmosphere contrasts against the “home-y” feeling that Macedo wants to build to encourage customers to spend as much as time as they’d like at Tim Hortons Asian locations, a custom popular with many Canadian Tims regulars.

“We want our team members to be the most welcoming staff in China,” said Macedo. ”We want people to be able to sit in our restaurants for 10 hours if they want to with only one cup of coffee if they want to or not ordering a cup of coffee at all.”

The company’s coffee has already proven popular in early overseas testing, he said, as have the brand’s iced cappuccino drinks.

They will be featured on the menu alongside products featuring matcha — a tea-based powder that comes in a bright green hue and is a perennial favourite in Asia.

The food selection will reflect local taste preferences, he said, adding the company has noticed Chinese consumers don’t eat baked goods or doughnuts as frequently as Canadians.

A completely local breakfast and lunch menu will feature Asian-style rice porridge called congee.

“A lot of (Asian) coffee shops will sell a piece of cake or whatever, but they don’t have a kitchen like we do, so that is where we are spending most of our time, trying to figure out what to serve for breakfast and lunch,” he said.

Despite some of the adjustments the brand will have to make, food industry expert Robert Carter thinks the expansion makes sense because China’s growing middle class is willing to spend their increased wealth on eating out, and more people are starting to drink coffee over tea.

However, Carter believes Tim Hortons needs to find a balance between serving local cuisine and signature Tim Hortons treats in order to succeed in China.

He pointed to one menu item in particular: iced coffees.

Research, he said, indicates it is the fastest-growing area for coffee, particularly with younger consumers.

“They will try traditional brewed coffees, but it is really those coffee-based, sugary beverages that are driving them into coffee shops, not only in China, but in North America,” he said.

“I would expect Tims to have a pretty aggressive portfolio with those types of beverages.”

Tims announced an agreement last month with private equity firm Cartesian Capital to bring thousands of restaurants to China, with plans to open the first location in 2019.

Tim Hortons has previously announced plans to expand to Spain, Mexico, Great Britain and the Philippines.

Its U.S. expansion, however, appears to be faltering. Last month it closed four locations in Ohio, the latest in a string of closures south of the border in the past several years.

In June, after reports parent company Restaurant Brands International was scaling back on its U.S. expansion plans, Macedo said in a statement that the company has seen softer comparable sales growth in the U.S. in more recent quarters amid a very competitive environment.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

Stock trading allegations dismissed against former Langley spiritual leader

Investors allegedly lost $740,000 investing through a local religious organization.

Langley photographer captures otters amid the ice

While photographing winter on the river, a local photographer was there when otters caught a fish.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Young curlers compete in Langley

Optimist Junior Curling Division features U18 players

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

Abbotsford man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Most Read