Pooja Yadav

We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a café or QSR, we are restaurant: Tim Hortons India CEO

Tim Hortons India CEO, Navin Gurnaney says the brand plans to open 20 stores by August 2023.

Canada's iconic coffee chain Tim Hortons has officially entered in India on August 11, 2022, with its first two locations in Delhi and Gurgaon. Inspired by the brand’s Canadian origins, the two outlets at Select Citywalk Mall (Saket) and DLF Cyberhub (Gurgaon) offer a host of options for consumers in Delhi NCR.

From offering signature beverages like French Vanilla, Iced Capp, Double Double, the classic Boston Cream to offering Indian fusions like Chicken or Mushroom Makhani Ravioli Pasta, Chicken Tikka Croissant Sandwich, Chole Kulche Flatbread; the brand’s menu has gone beyond the Canadian classics this time. Apart from this the stores have a section dedicated to ‘made-to-order food’ where breads and toppings can be customised.

We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a café or QSR, we are restaurant: Tim Hortons India CEO

Since the day of its inauguration, Tim Hortons has been making headlines in the country. But is it worth the hype? How will it stand out in the Indian market? Navin Gurnaney, CEO, Tim Hortons India spoke to afaqs! on how the brand plans to position itself in India, its Indianised menu, and the company’s expansion plans in India.

Edited Excerpts:

How does Tim Hortons plan to position itself in India? Is it a premium cafe or a QSR for the family?

We are neither. We want to be seen and will behave as a premium brand with a friendly price spot. We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a coffee shop or a café or QSR, we are a restaurant that offers all the things which a café or a coffee shop would offer.

We had ideas of our own and then we validated them using a lot of consumer research. We saw this spot because we wanted it. We want to be known for both our beverages and food. So far, if long queues outside our store are to be believed then we have been able to hit the right spot the way we wanted to.

How many stores are you planning to launch in India? What kind of locations are you targeting initially?

My commitment to the board is to launch 120 stores in the first three years. The plan is to build 20 stores by August 2023. Then by August 2024 we would accelerate and build 50 more stores, and by August 2025 we would build 60 new stores.

From a location standpoint, we are going to go where the customers are, like malls and airports. You will probably see us in some non-traditional locations, such as highways. We are a premium brand and have started out in North India with stores in Delhi NCR and Punjab.

Why the focus on North India?

This was a very studied decision. Tim Hortons in Canada is a huge brand, we have around 4,300 stores. So, it is part of the majority of Canadian society and Punjabis are also a part of Canadian society. Considering the Punjabi speaking belt there is a good deal of awareness of the brand. The reason why we have made a robust start is because there was great anticipation amongst people who live in the Punjabi speaking belt.

We will stay in the North for the first year and then within the end of the first year we will start our journey in the west like Maharashtra and Gujarat.

What is the target audience for your brand and what have you learnt about the preferences about Indian consumers?

We have a pretty wide lens to think about. We have great coffee that’s what we are known for 100% Arabica beans and we have large iconic beverages - French Vanilla Latte, Iced Capp, Cappuccino Java Chips and a food menu that has resonated very well.

Primarily, it is Gen Z and Millennial consumers that are looking for premium global experiences. These consumers living in Delhi know exactly what is sold in a coffee shop in New York City and want those global experiences in India.

What I have learnt during my journey is that as far as food is concerned Indians are really possessive about their particular palette. So, our menu has a wide variety of international and Indian flavours. There are muffins, croissants, bagels, Chicken Tikka Croissants, Paneer Tikka Wraps, Chole Kulche Flatbread, etc. Melts are hugely popular - the Five Cheese melt is flying out of the window, Mushroom & Cheese and Grilled Chicken melt have also turned out to be the top sellers.

We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a café or QSR, we are restaurant: Tim Hortons India CEO

In cafes, the crowd thins out around 11.30 am; consumers want to go elsewhere for lunch. But when you come to Tim Hortons it starts with breakfast and continues to be busy through lunch and dinners. So, we have got an all-day menu that has resonated very well with people.

Will you partner with food delivery platforms?

We want to get our in-store experience absolutely flawless first. Since we have such long lines outside our stores, we want to improve the speed of service first and then very soon we will be delivering through Swiggy and Zomato. Once our systems are in place, we could turn on delivery tomorrow because people want it. Apart from this, we are also working on the regulations on keeping the packaging beans in store and also to get those delivered.

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