Tim Hortons ask customers to come back as they are

The QSR welcomes customers back as parent company RBI releases a framework for brand-building amid disruption.

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Tim Hortons has its eyes set on welcoming customers back to its physical locations as its parent company releases a new framework to lead it down the road to recovery.

The QSR’s new “Come as you are” campaign welcomes customers back to its brick and mortar locations. The campaign – created by Zulu Alpha Kilo – encourages Canadians to come as they are to Tims: “extra scruffy,” with that “do-it-yourself haircut,” “exhausted from homeschooling.”

“We want to always ensure we are living by Tim Hortons’ original vision that we are ‘a place where everyone can go and feel at home,’” Maxine Thomas, strategic planning director at Zulu, said in an email to strategy. “We all recognize that the experience of the past few months has stripped away superficialities and pretense, and allowed all of us to be our true selves. We wanted to acknowledge that with a bit of smile, and also let Canadians know just how much we’ve missed them.”

Thomas describes Tim Hortons as often “a mirror of Canadians’ collective feelings and values.” Zulu felt it was important to continue with that during this time. “As one of Canada’s most iconic companies, Tim’s felt emerging from [lockdown] was a moment that should be acknowledged,” Thomas said.

This week, the campaign will also include an Instagram lens, which bucks the trend of lenses that change a user’s appearance to continues the “come as you are” message.

The campaign launched last week, ahead of parent company Restaurant Brands International releasing a company-wide update on its operations 100 days into taking massive measures to address COVID-19, noting the pivots the company has had to make to chart its course to recovery.

Tim Hortons has had comparable sales improve weekly from being down by more than 40% in the last two weeks of March to the negative “high teens” as of last week. Sales for Burger King are now flat after being down by roughly a third at the end of March. Sales growth at Popeye’s is in “the very high 20s.”

But since the struggles in the nascent stages of the pandemic, the company’s three brands have continued to recapture lost business via improvements and expansions to the brands’ home delivery channels, curbside pickup, mobile order and pay and drive-thru experience.

“Driving rapid digital innovation has been essential to our recovery path as a company,” said Jose Cil, CEO of RBI.

Cil also announced that RBI would be launching a new “Restaurant Brands for Good” framework, which is meant to ensure it can continue to build its brands without losing long-term priorities don’t get lost in business disruption.

The framework includes three pillars: food, planet and people. Food includes the elimination of artificial ingredients from its food, as it is currently rolling out for Burger King’s Whopper in the U.S. Planet includes sustainability initiatives, like Tim Hortons eliminating plastic straws and stir sticks in Canada. People includes addressing the “insufficient racial diversity” at RBI, including a commitment to ensure at least half of all final-round candidates interviewing for roles at its head offices will be from diverse groups.

Prior to the pandemic, digital advancements and sustainability were points of emphasis for Tim Hortons. In late February, the brand released its planned changes to its annual Roll Up The Rim contest, such as the rollable cups only available for two of the four weeks of the contest; thereafter, customers would only be able to play through the digital version of the contest. Any Tim Hortons customer who purchased their beverage with a reusable cup would be given three digital rolls through the loyalty app. However, in March, as COVID-19 started to progress, the brand decided not to distribute reusable cups as part of its planned Roll Up The Rim launch and went fully digital with the contest, due to concerns around the spread of the virus.

The new campaign, which includes 30 and 15-second cuts of the spot, will run on national TV and on Instagram.

Update, 3:45 p.m.: Later in the afternoon on the same day as RBI’s release, the privacy commissioners of Canada, BC, Alberta and Quebec announced a joint investigation into Tim Hortons’ mobile app. This month, several media reports have covered how the app collected extensive geolocation data from users, logging their location as frequently as every three to five minutes. The investigation will examine whether the app collects adequate user consent for this data collection, and whether these collection practices are appropriate under Canadian privacy law.