Tim Hortons unifying POS system for pre-order, pre-pay platform

Feb. 26, 2014 | by Alicia Kelso

Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira said the brand can win in the QSR segment's "new era" if it executes flawlessly at the restaurant level.

To do that, a major spotlight is now on operations. During Tuesday's investor day, COO David Clanahan outlined some of his department's strategies to deliver "the ultimate guest experience." Here are some examples.

Speed of service

"The gift of time is one of the most valued commodities today," Clanahan said.

Last year, Tims focused on a speed of service initiative at its drive-thru restaurant by adding double lanes or a fifth car menu board at 1,440 units, or about 90 percent of the system. These enhancements will be in place at 100 percent of the system by year's end.

The company has also improved capacity by adding express beverage lines in some restaurants and has added mobile payment capabilities, which is "all about convenience and speed of service for our guests," Clanahan said.

New menu boards have also simplified the ordering process for both customers and staff, and Tims is currently testing a soup and sandwich station, which has yielded a 50-percent greater throughput in a one-hour basis.


The biggest change coming in store this year is the spring rollout of a single source (Micros) point-of-sale system.

"By going to a single-source POS, this allows us to do more things, from order taking to making it simple to add on new apps," Clanahan said.

With a pre-order and pre-pay application, guests will be able to pre-order, pre-pay, walk in, skip the line and pick up their meal.

"This is going to change things dramatically," Clanahan said. "And it's the way the world is going."

Digital menu boards

Tims introduced digital menu boards via its breakfast menu in the fall. Clanahan said the change made ordering simpler for guests and for staff, and allowed operators to push the right products. Digital menu boards for the lunch daypart will rollout this spring.

"It's about taking these menu boards and driving them like the Ferrari they are," Clanahan said. "These give us the ability to take new product introductions to a new level. Our restaurants, on a regular basis, but not intrusive or distracting, will be able to introduce new products and focus on quality and say 'buy me now.' They can also influence promotions. They are literally talking to our guests while they're in our restaurants."

Co-branded payment card.

Finally, Clanahan touted the brand's new co-branded payment card with CIBC and Visa, initially introduced during last week's' earnings call.

The company calls the technology "smart plastic" (and, less formally, the "double double") and it will officially be introduced in the spring. The premise is that customers can use the card to buy anything, per the Visa card and accumulate rewards from those purchases for use at Tim Horton's restaurants.

"So if I pay $1,000 for a fridge on my card, I can then walk next door to Tim's for lunch and I get instant, real-time rewards of $10. My lunch literally is free because I just purchased my fridge," Clanahan explained. "We see this as a tremendous move forward and we think it will drive some very interesting things for us."

Tim Hortons will leverage technology innovations to make the customer experience at the store level "easier," to influence their behavior and to get them back into the restaurant.

"We will know where the consumer is going, and get there before anyone else," Caira said. "You have to understand the consumer better than your competitor."

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Mobile Payments , Online / Mobile / Social , Operations Management

Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.
View Alicia Kelso's profile on LinkedIn

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