Tim Hortons is to be bought out by Burger King in the largest ever acquisition of a restaurant chain, at a cost 12.5 billion dollars. Whether you’re in downtown Toronto, or the farthest stretches of the Yukon Territory, one thing that all Canadians seem to have in common is that they all have an opinion about this merger, but it’s certainly not a strong opinion – it’s a wishy-washy one. Many Canadians, including myself, just don’t know how to feel about seeing a Canadian symbol being run by a non-Canuck.
One of the major talking points for the Tim Hortons executives is that this acquisition will not change the product that so many individuals have come to know and love (and become addicted to). They’ve even begun advertising with the new slogan “Always Tims” which shows two identical coffee cups labelled, “Before” and “After”.
But perplexingly enough, I don’t think it’s the quality of the product that we will really care about. After all, when Tim Hortons stopped baking their fresh donuts at individual locations and switched to frozen products, sure there were grumbles from the faithful — but did that stop us from going? Or splurging on a box of Timbits? Even the fundamental directive of the company has changed dramatically over the last few years, becoming a bake shop, selling sandwiches and paninis — yet Canadians were more than welcome to embrace the change.
Then why is it that this merger makes me so uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen what’s become of my beloved Zellers. You really couldn’t get any more Canadian than Zellers — being a limb of the Hudson Bay Company. When the American company Target took over Zellers last year, people were excited. I loved Target in the States, yet somehow it still just wasn’t the same. Personally, I would rather watch Walmart’s sickly-cousin rot than see it fail in its aims to become an international success.
International aspirations seem to be at the heart of this buy-out, with 300 more Tim Hortons locations planning to open by 2018 in the United States. While that may have little affect on the locations this side of the border, it still feels like we’re losing exclusivity.
It seems almost selfish, but sharing the national tradition of coffee and donuts at Tims will ultimately make it less special. Hasn’t the U.S. taken enough of Canadian culture already? They took Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Shania Twain … not that we really want any of them back.
Treasures are meant to be shared and shown off, but almost like a secret – maybe we should keep Tim Hortons between Canadians only. Even now, after buzz and stock hysteria, it remains a subject that isolates people and makes me uncomfortable. The thought of someone from Arkansas rolling up a rim to win might be too much for some to bare, but ultimately, this is the sign that this Canadian corporation has really made it. Maybe it’ll even overtake the infamous Rob Ford from the International headlines about Canada for a while.