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Changes to Tim Hortons loyalty program met with online backlash

Last Updated Feb 12, 2020 at 12:52 pm MDT

A Tims Rewards card. Image courtesy Joseph Fazio.

TORONTO – One of Canada’s most iconic brands is suddenly facing a loyalty crisis.

After announcing sagging profits and lower same-store sales at Tim Hortons franchises earlier this week, parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc. (RBI), partially blamed the rapid expansion of the coffee shop’s loyalty program, which swelled to a massive 7.5 million members.

“We’ve attracted far more guests to our loyalty program far more quickly than we had planned,” RBI CEO Jose Cil said during a post-earnings conference call.

Cil said the barrage of giveaways dragged down comparable sales in Canada by three per cent.

“Despite our recent results, we have a clear plan and believe it’s within our control to restore Tim Hortons to growth in Canada,” he said.

That clear plan involves a revamp of the rewards system. The new program will be based on points rather than visits. It goes into effect on Feb. 27.

The new system encourages customers to register online, offering more rewards options for those who do so. RBI said only 25 per cent of members are currently registered.

The company explained some of the changes:

Many Tim Hortons patrons rejected the idea that sales woes have anything to do with the loyalty program, blaming everything from coffee cup lids to questionable food quality for the drop in sales.

The new system was also criticized for being confusing and inconvenient.


Tim Hortons also announced a number of other changes in hopes to boost their profits. Some of those changes include:

  • Tim Hortons plans to accelerate a roll out of fresh coffee brewers for better-tasting and more consistent coffee quality.
  • The chain will start offering more than one type of milk for customers, including skim milk and a dairy alternative, almond, starting this spring.
  • Tim Hortons is working to improve the quality of bacon in its sandwiches.
  • The company will transform nearly all its drive-through boards to digital from paper which will allow it to tailor offerings based on location, time, weather and other factors.