OAKVILLE, Ont. — The head of Tim Hortons extended an olive branch Monday to disgruntled franchisees, saying he is now willing to directly discuss their concerns with them about how the coffee-and-doughnut chain is run.
Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Restaurant Brands International (TSX:QSR), said he has been meeting with some store owners who have accused the company of mismanagement, including using tactics such as intimidation to improve the bottom line.
“We’re just constantly trying to get better and trying to improve and we’re willing to listen to good feedback from people,” Schwartz said in an interview after RBI’s annual general meeting in Oakville, Ont.
RBI has been in a public tussle with a rogue association of Tim Hortons cafe owners called the Great White North Franchisee Association (GWNFA), which formed to raise franchisee concerns. The group has held town halls across Canada, hired a public relations company and secured legal representation to get their message across.
Schwartz said while their input is welcome, he would prefer it if they relayed it privately.
“I don’t think it makes sense to argue and debate about how to run the brand publicly,” he said. “But we’re always welcome to hear feedback if it’s constructive and done in a respectful private way.”
His discussions with members of GWNFA signal a reversal, as he has said previously he would not have direct communication with the association.
Schwartz encouraged the franchisees to run for a seat on the chain’s franchisee advisory board in the fall.
GWNFA said Monday in a statement that two meetings with RBI have taken place in the last two weeks, but ”no commitments have been made on any issue.”
“We are open to a constructive partnership with RBI, but have made clear that this will not be through the advisory board,” the statement said. “We will not be co-opted into an undemocratic mechanism that is under RBI’s control.”
Marc Caira, the former CEO of Tim Hortons and current vice-chairman who engineered its US$11-billion sale to RBI three years ago, said GWNFA’s rumblings are a distraction from what should be its focus: its customers.
“I, as a shareholder, do I like this noise?” said Caira when asked about the recent negative media attention surrounding Tim Hortons. “Of course not. …
“What I want them focused on — both management and franchisees — is to focus on the consumers, bring out innovative products and services to grow the business profitably over the long term.”