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A customer exits the Tim Hortons at Kingston Road and Main Street in Toronto on Dec. 16, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Tim Hortons has hired a senior marketing executive from one of its biggest rivals at a time when competition in the coffee sector has presented challenges for the brand.

On Friday morning, the coffee-and-doughnut chain’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International Inc., announced that Hope Bagozzi has left as director of marketing for McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. to become Tim Hortons’ new chief marketing officer. Ms. Bagozzi, who joined McDonald’s in 2004, will be responsible for product development, customer analytics, marketing and advertising.

A number of changes have been made to the executive team for Tim Hortons. Last month, the company announced that president Alex Macedo will leave in March. In November, Tim Hortons hired Chris Main, who was Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd.'s retail technology vice-president, as its new head of restaurant technology, and in December, former Choice Properties REIT senior vice-president Trent Holfeld was named head of real estate development.

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In its most recent earnings report in October, Restaurant Brands’ chief executive Jose Cil said Tim Hortons’ earnings “were not where we want them to be.” While Burger King and Popeyes posted healthy sales increases, Tim Hortons had a slight decline for the quarter ended Sept. 30.

The hires reflect a variety of priorities for the company, RBI chief operating officer Duncan Fulton said in an interview. Mr. Main will be responsible for introducing digital menu boards in all of the chain’s drive-throughs, which will allow franchisees to display different items and promotions depending on factors such as the local weather; rolling out more ordering kiosks in restaurants; and developing the company’s loyalty program. Mr. Holfeld is tasked with finding new sites for Tim Hortons locations, renovating existing restaurants and testing the new smaller urban store formats. Ms. Bagozzi will be responsible for modernizing the brand, overseeing the advertising fund and marketing strategies and new product development. For example, it recently expanded the sale of a more premium line of “dream doughnuts" that it sells at a higher prices, with flavours such as dulce de leche and chocolate truffle.

“Our biggest growth opportunities will be expanding platforms that we’re already famous for,” Mr. Fulton said.

This week, a Bank of America analyst report downgraded the parent company’s stock, forecasting that “Tim Hortons’ struggles will weigh on RBI until the brand is stabilized,” and saying that Mr. Macedo’s departure could signal that this will take time.

“We think Tim Hortons has lost share over the past several years in Canada to its two biggest competitors, Starbucks and McDonald’s,” the report said.

The executive team is preparing for two weeks of meetings with franchisees across the country, focused on elevating product quality; growing sales in its core categories of coffee, baked goods and breakfast; and modernizing the brand.

“You’ll see campaigns that reinforce that Tims is a modern, relevant brand in our lives today and not just a nostalgic memory,” Mr. Fulton said. “...A lot will be designed to make sure that, in 2020, people will see Tims as a brand that is as relevant and exciting today as it was 20 or 30 years ago.”

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