A group representing Tim Hortons franchisees that clashed with their parent company in recent years has rebranded and is actively recruiting new members in a bid to address an array of operational concerns with management.
The Great White North Franchisee Association, which was formed in 2017 to represent the concerns of restaurant owners, settled two lawsuits with parent company Restaurant Brands International last year. The group is now called the Alliance Of Canadian Franchisees. It is encouraging Tim Hortons franchisees to sign up and is offering them anonymity as members.
During the public dispute between the company and GWNFA in 2018, RBI issued “brand protection” and “breach of media policy” notices to the dissident group’s six board members, also franchisees. The company asserted they had contributed to negative media coverage of Tim Hortons in a breach of corporate policy. The company revoked the franchise licences of former GWNFA president David Hughes.
The two franchisee lawsuits were settled last year, in an agreement that called for the company to spend $10-million on regional and local marketing initiatives over two years, as well as to contribute $2-million toward the association’s costs.
The Alliance Of Canadian Franchisees is now led by executive director Nick Javor, a former Tim Hortons executive who spent 20 years at the company before leaving in 2015. Mr. Javor confirmed his role with the organization but declined requests to comment for this story. Former GWNFA president Mark Walker is the president of the new alliance, and also declined to respond to questions.
This week and next, RBI is holding the first of four rounds of in-person meetings with restaurant owners across the country. The alliance has distributed a list of concerns that it has encouraged franchisees to raise at the meetings. Those stated concerns include low sales volume at some restaurants; the frequent addition of new menu items and practices that complicate operations and add to costs; and a payment system that needs updating.
Toronto-based RBI works with a 19-seat advisory board that represents the views of its 1,500 restaurant owners to the company. Franchisees in every region elect their representatives in an anonymous vote.
“This is the only credible voice of owners we recognize – other than our frequent meetings directly with owners,” Mary Lowe, head of communications at Tim Hortons, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. The concerns outlined by the alliance are “only some of the issues that we actively work on” with that board, she added.
“In every franchise system, there are always operational issues that are worked out between the company and the franchisees behind the scenes – and there are always issues that can be made better,” Ms. Lowe wrote.
“Unfortunately, an association representing a seemingly small minority of franchisees circulates communications about our private operational dealings that always seem to end up in the national media. It’s not helpful to the interests of owners or to the image of our brand in front of our guests when that happens.”
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