Early yesterday morning, while lurking on Twitter, someone posted a Tweet with a link to this article. It describes the near future of Tim Horton’s in Canada, such that there are plans to add approximately 700 new locations (to bring the total count to 4000 for the country) and a new line of food products.
Based on the photo posted with the article (reposted below), I immediately felt aggravated. Not only did the photo feature what appears to be an overweight employee pouring a coffee, my immediate assumption regarding new menu items was that they were going to be additional sweet, fatty, junk food to a an already saturated collection of offerings. Add to that, the majority of their new “espresso drinks” line up feature added sugar.
I was surprised, but not pleasantly, to learn that the new food items they plan on adding are made-to-order panini sandwiches. It was better than another carb-and-fat heavy pasta dish or sweet dessert item, but at the same time, Tim Horton’s already serves toasted sandwiches, soups, bagels dressed in a variety of ways, and slew of breakfast sandwiches as well. Some locations even house a Cold Stone Creamery counter. How much more fat and salt do they really need?
Aside from that is the issue of adding 700 new locations. My gut feeling tells me that the majority of these locations are going to be placed in small towns and more rural-esque settings, based on the fact that experience tells me the major urban centers are already fairly saturated, and the article indicates they would like to “expand more” into Ontario and Western Canada. I’m torn about the new locations in a couple of different directions.
On the one hand, if my gut feeling is correct, and knowing what I do about the economy in general, small towns and rural areas are likely desperate for jobs. Tim Horton’s promises flexible shifts and benefits for their employees. Greater numbers of employed people in the population will mean more money put back into the local economy and could help revitalize the area.
On the other hand, however, are my concerns about the environment, and the general health of the local residents having greater access to fatty, sugary junk food on a constant basis. Tim’s supplies their locations from central warehouses, meaning all of the items must be shipped in by truck. The majority of their food and drink items leave in disposable packaging. Their coffee isn’t close to being ethically sourced. Then, of course, is the whole issue of the drive-through and the dozens and dozens of cars that will sit and idle during a morning rush — outside of the increased idle time as a panini sandwich is made to order. There’s no way that 700 new locations are going to improve the quick-serve coffee chain’s carbon footprint.
Canadians, in general, are not a very active people. We live in the suburbs, drive to work, and are getting heavier and unhealthier by the year. As a population, we don’t need increased access to fatty, salty, sugary convenience foods, since we have clearly demonstrated that collectively, we are unable to practice any sort of moderation. Areas of unemployment do tend to see heavier populations as well. Sure, Tim’s will be adding jobs, but they’ll also make it easier for the locals to give in and indulge in extra, unneeded calories. Don’t get me started on how the poor quality of the coffee almost requires a minimum addition of milk. The “regular” dressed coffee is, by default, a shot of cream and a shot of sugar.
In my opinion, Canadians do not need more Tim Horton’s. They need to be given the opportunities and the tools to start up their own coffee shops that source their food products locally, and the chance to serve ethical coffee if they so choose. They may, of course, choose to serve junk as well. That can’t be avoided. At least a local start-up would be established with community pride.
Having written all this, I know that Tim Horton’s is not in business to be aware of their carbon footprint, let alone care to take measures to reduce it. They aren’t in the business of caring about the health of their customers, either — quite the opposite. The cashier will always ask you if you want to add food to your drink order and in-store advertisements attempt to garner attention to “featured” products, and to up sell product “pairings”. (A recent ad I observed suggested a donut would “pair perfectly” with one of their new lattes.) No, Tim Horton’s is there to make money, and by doing so in a way they know works: serving coffee with cream and sugar, and fatty, sugary pastries.
I live in London, Ontario, where the creation of any kind of job is desperately needed. I have a hard time condemning any company that would endeavour to establish itself in smaller communities and provide much-needed jobs. However, I also have a hard time digesting the fact that these jobs come by way of an eco-unfriendly establishment such as Tim’s whose very business model is built upon making Canadians fat. It might be time to make small business loans and grants more accessible to entrepreneurs in our communities.
I should point out that I’m also aware of the fact that Tim’s does “give back” to the community in a number of ways, particularly with respect to children, with their Timbits hockey and the children’s camps whereby they send underprivileged kids to summer camp at no charge to the families. I don’t mean to paint Tim Horton’s as an evil, greedy company, who are extorting Canadians’ love of coffee and donuts for nothing more than their own gain. They do also, at least, offer their employees benefits, something a small business owner may not be able to do. In the spirit of sustainability, environmentally and econometrically, my vote will always be for the local business owner.