Tim Hortons franchisees are rescheduling their public protest over management’s decision to revoke the licence of a restaurant owner who was critical of the company following failed talks over the matter.
The dissident franchisees delayed the protest – which was to be held on Wednesday – after the parent company, Restaurant Brands International Inc. (RBI) held last-ditch discussions last week with a franchisee advisory board about the case of Mark Kuziora, a Tim Hortons restaurant owner whose licence is not being renewed when it expires on Aug. 31.
However, the talks were unsuccessful in coming to a resolution that would ensure RBI renewed Mr. Kuziora’s licence, according to a statement from the Great White North Franchisee Association’s board of directors. The association was formed more than a year ago by unhappy restaurant owners to take on the company’s austere management practices, which the franchisees say are threatening the Tim Hortons brand and their financial health.
The association board said the protest, which was scheduled for June 20 in front of RBI’s head office in Oakville, Ont., will be rescheduled to a later date to give the franchisees time to reorganize.
Mr. Kuzoria’s case has become a flashpoint in the escalating fight between the coffee-and-doughnut chain and its franchisees. A long-time Tim Hortons franchisee, Mr. Kuziora is active in the association and signed his name to its lawsuit alleging the company misused franchisee advertising funds. In April, he sued the company over the revoking of his licence.
The company denies the allegations against it and has said Mr. Kuziora’s licence was denied because of “a documented history of problems … including food-safety violations and not meeting a number of other Tim Hortons operating standards.” Mr. Kuziora disputes that.
Alex Macedo, new president of Tim Hortons, said he wants to make peace with franchisees. “We have to do a better job in working together with our franchisees,” he said in an interview early this month. But company executives will only deal with its elected franchisee advisory board, which the association says merely rubber stamps management decisions and doesn’t have a meaningful vote on key issues.
Company executives refuse to acknowledge the association and say the advisory board aims to come to a consensus on matters that the company seeks advice on while some items are put to a vote. Mr. Macedo cancelled a meeting scheduled to be held this month with David Hughes, president of the association, acting as an individual franchisee.
The association says franchisees’ bottom line is being hurt. But Daniel Schwartz, chief executive of parent RBI, said franchisees’ average annual profit has increased 12 per cent to $320,000 since the end of 2014 when 3G Capital, a Brazilian private-equity firm, acquired Tim Hortons to form RBI.