Courtesy of Tim Hortons

The lawsuit claims the new ownership is cutting back on community outreach.

July 13, 2017

No one said living under a monarchy is easy. So maybe operators of Tim Hortons’ restaurants should have seen the writing on the wall when the Canadian coffee chain was bought out in 2014 by that well-known royal, Burger King. But though Canadians have a reputation for being polite, some of the franchisees have already had enough, filing a class-action suit against their corporate overlords Restaurant Brands International (who now own not only Burger King and Tim Hortons but also Popeye’s) in part because they claim the company is stripping away much of Tim Horton’s Canadian heart.

According to Bloomberg, about half of Tim Horton’s Canadian franchisees have formed a group called the Great White North Franchisee Association and have filed a class-action lawsuit against Restaurant Brands for breaching its obligations – suggesting that decisions being handed down by corporate brass are hurting the Tim Hortons image by driving up prices and cutting community programs like camps for kid, local barbecues and, most important of all, youth hockey. “You’ve got three or four generations that have been brought up with Tim Hortons,” David Hughes, owner of five franchises and the man running the Great White North group, was quoted as saying. “We were involved in the community. Restaurant Brands, they’re not interested in that. All those things that we are famous for -- the kids’ camps -- those are the things that make us different than everyone else.”

The suit, which the Great White North association says it filed due to Restaurant Brand’s “lack of transparency and unwillingness to answer important questions,” seeks about $387 million in damages – essentially saying that, hey, Canadians might be nice, but we are not pushovers. “We built this brand one store at a time, and it was based on that community thing,” Hughes told Bloomberg. “Somehow, we’ve got to get back to that.”

Interestingly, last month, about half of Tim Hortons’ 700 American locations also joined in on the complaint. Americans and Canadians agreeing on something? This must be serious.