Fuel Stations Part of Tim Hortons' Aggressive Growth Plans

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Tim Hortons Inc. will open restaurants in 25 gas stations in the Youngstown area in 2015, according to a Business Journal report. A company spokeswoman confirmed that an agreement is being worked out with a franchisee.

"We have a strong presence in Erie, Pa., and a strong presence in Columbus, Ohio," which makes adding units in Youngstown a "natural progression," said Brynn Burton, manager of U.S. public relations for Tim Hortons. "The Youngstown expansion is going to be what we call nonstandard restaurants, which are going to be [in] fuel stations."

The 25 gas stations are part of the Oakville, Ontario-based chain's plan to open 300 restaurants in the United States by the end of 2018. During a late February investor conference, Tim Hortons unveiled a strategic roadmap for 2014-2018, titled "Winning in the New Era."

"Consumers are highly interconnected and have increasingly evolving needs. Our strategic roadmap is ambitious but achievable, and is designed to capitalize on our strengths while allowing us to rapidly adapt to deliver on those changing consumer needs," stated Tim Hortons President and CEO Marc Caira. "We are energizing the Tim Hortons brand in all of our geographic markets and we are focusing on driving long-term, sustainable profitable growth, which we believe will return us to above-market total return to shareholders."

The company identified multiple key themes and trends shaping its strategy, including:

  • The evolution of consumer tastes and preferences, including new flavors and a desire for balanced menu options to address interests in health, wellness and nutrition;
  • A continued shift in demographics that includes an aging population, increased ethnic diversity and the growing importance of Millennials; and
  • The emergence of technology and data to drive both consumer marketing and menu insights, and to respond to increasingly interconnected consumers.

The strategic roadmap labels the U.S. market as the largest quick-service restaurant market in the world and one that is still growing; a "must-win battle."

Planned initiatives for the market include developing restaurants, which will be complemented by brand and channel extensions to drive brand awareness and penetration; traditional franchising development; and driving average unit volumes in existing restaurants by leveraging technology, marketing and promotional initiatives and by offering new and differentiated beverages, snacks and meal items, as well as combos. 

This strategy is expected to result in substantial progress for the U.S. segment, leading to U.S. operating income of up to $50 million by 2018, company officials said.

"We are setting out to be bold, different and daring. We envision a Tim Hortons that is one of the industry's most consumer-centric brands, leveraging technology to build our understanding of emerging consumer insights and to connect with them in new and innovative ways," Caira stated. "We are focusing on flawless execution and creating the ultimate guest experience. We are asserting our coffee and food leadership, simplifying our operations and pursuing differentiated innovation. Our team is aligned, focused and committed to strong execution and market leadership."

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