Tim Hortons launches grilled Panini sandwiches
Toronto Star - The fight over lunch-on-the-go in Canada heated up on Thursday with the launch of a new line of grilled Panini sandwiches at Tim Hortons.
The Panini sandwiches include a turkey chipotle, a Tuscan chicken, a smoked ham & cheese, and a bacon, tomato & cheese sandwich selling for $5.29 each. A grilled cheese Panini sells for $3.99.
The sandwiches are being sold in select test locations in Saskatoon and Toronto and will be rolled out across Ontario by the end of August. Tim Hortons restaurants across the country will be serving grilled Paninis by October.
“People are looking for an alternative to a fried product,” said Tim Hortons executive chairman, interim CEO and president Paul House, over a cheese Panini at a busy Bloor St. East location on Thursday.
“I think it’s where the opportunity is. People are changing their eating habits.”
Tim Horton’s is the number one quick-serve-restaurant (QSR) destination for Canadians at breakfast, and now House hopes to take first place for lunch away from McDonald’s with a punched-up menu.
He’s done it before. One year after introducing breakfast sandwiches in 2007, Tim Hortons took the top spot for breakfast in Canada from McDonald’s and has held it ever since.
Lunch is the sweet spot in the QSR category – 33 per cent of total QSR sales are attributed to lunch in Canada.
“Innovation is constant in the marketplace,” said House. “The consumer is looking for that, their appetites are changing. We need to move our menu with them.
“I don’t think 25 years ago, I would have tried to sell lasagna to a Tim Hortons customer.”
Louis Payette, a spokeperson for McDonald’s Canada, said classics like the Big Mac and Chicken McNuggets continue to draw customers, along with newer menu offerings like McBistro Chicken Sandwiches and premium salads.
“Our lunch business is growing and is a strong contributor to our overall momentum,” said Payette.
This past winter was a strong quarter for the Canadian foodservice industry generally, according to statistics from NPD Group. Total restaurant visits increased by four per cent compared to the same quarter a year ago, an all time high for the winter quarter, which includes December, January and February.
The winter quarter also signaled the third consecutive quarter of strong performance for Canadian commercial foodservices, which posted a five per cent increase in dollars, the strongest sales increase of the past four years, according to Robert Carter, executive director of food service at NPD.
“It’s often the case that foodservice improves before the economy begins to strengthen. Let’s hope the current positive trend in foodservice visits is a bellwether for better economic times ahead,” Carter said.
House said the industry benefited from warm winter weather – weather being one of the most important factors in the QSR industry – not as many people want to run out for lunch when it’s -20C and blowing snow.
Len Kubas, chairman of KubasPrimedia believes Tim Hortons could become a victim of its own success, with line-ups at some stores snaking up and down the aisles, even in locations where crews operate at top speed and efficiency.
“It’s a tribute to the fact that they are so popular. But if you have any errands to run at lunch, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself, is there somewhere else I can go to get a sandwich in seven minutes instead of 17 minutes?”
Tim Hortons' shares fall
TORONTO Sun - Shares of Tim Hortons Inc fell and Cheesecake Factory Inc rose on Monday after Goldman Sachs downgraded its rating on Tim Hortons to “sell” and upgraded Cheesecake Factory to “neutral.”
In a note to clients, analyst Michael Kelter said that despite steady same-store sales gains at Tim Hortons, he is concerned with declines in restaurant traffic at the chain, best known for its coffee and doughnuts.
“These declines may be an early indicator of impending saturation in its home Canadian market and/or may reflect increased competitive pressures,” he wrote.
Tim Hortons and U.S. heavyweight McDonald’s Corp are increasingly competing head-to-head in Canada, as Tims expands food offerings and McDonald’s promotes its coffee.
In the same note, Kelter upgraded Cheesecake Factory Inc to “neutral” from “sell.” He said the restaurant chain’s same-store sale trend has held up better than its peers, and that earnings may be boosted by lower food costs.
Tim Hortons’ stock was down 2.9% at $52.15 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday. Cheesecake Factory rose 2.3% to $32.61 US on the Nasdaq.
(Reporting By Allison Martell)