Tim Hortons Mobile Order App Delayed as Franchisees Oppose Launch

Earlier this year, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the parent company of Tim Hortons (and Burger King), announced new mobile ordering apps were set to debut this spring.

But that plan looks in jeopardy as Tim Hortons franchisees have now opposed the launch, claiming it is being rushed, saying the app is “clearly an ill-timed launch”, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

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The existing TimmyMe mobile app

RBI had planned to launch the new mobile order app on March 30, but on March 21, franchisees sent out a letter and threatened to seek a court injunction to halt the debut of the app. Restaurant owners have formed a new group called the Great White North Franchisee Association. The owners argue the app’s roll out is being rushed and not enough testing and staff training has been done. The new app will increase costs for franchisees and could possibly threaten their businesses and the company’s brand as well.

The Tim Hortons mobile order app is now being postponed for at least two weeks, as decided by an advisory board of the company.

On March 23, the association representing franchisees sent out another letter, noting “There have been many concerns and complaints voiced about the launch of the mobile app,” adding “There are a host of outstanding and significant concerns and we question whether two weeks permits sufficient time to address all of these issues.”

RBI is owned by Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital, who purchased Tim Hortons back in late 2014 and merged it with its fast-food chain, Burger King. Ever since the take over, franchisees have complained of increased costs due to corporate cost-cutting by RBI.

When will you be able to order and pay ahead of time to skip the line at Tim Hortons? The future now is unknown. Spokeswoman Shannon Hall told the Globe via email, “We remain very excited to launch the Tim Hortons Mobile App later this year, which is a key part of our long-term strategy.”

Hall explained the decision to launch the Tim Hortons mobile order app later this year was decided together with their advisory board, which is represented by elected franchisee owners nationwide.

RBI setup its mobile order app testing late last year at 25 Tim Hortons locations in Ontario, with the app developed by a startup the company acquired in late 2015.

While store owners agreed in their five-page letter to Tim Hortons management technology is mandatory in today’s world, they detailed concerns over increased labour and promotional costs, on top of logistics and operational concerns, saying the app’s launch has “caused considerable apprehension within the franchisee community.”

Franchisees explained the ongoing pilot test is not widespread enough, as it is being tested only among head office employees, and hasn’t been put to the test at scale, saying “The potential risk of customer loss at Tim Hortons is significant.” They also gave the example of Starbucks and their mobile app rollout, which has resulted in long lines at the pick up counter for mobile orders, and says Tim Hortons should take this as a sign not to rush the mobile app launch.

Other complaints by franchisees included the timing of the mobile app launch, which coincides with a new espresso coffee program, which required store owners to purchase new machines for, on top of “countless” promotions that are “expected to be flawlessly executed at store level.”

Tim Hortons owners fear a rushed mobile app roll out would mean increased complaints by unhappy customers. RBI tracks store performance in its internal GPS system, which “are being used to justify owners not getting new agreements or new stores,” say owners, who fear a failed mobile launch would negatively impact them.

Most Tim Hortons locations have huge lines during peak periods. Stores run on sheer volume and with mobile orders, the pick up counter will be even more chaotic. There needs to be dedicated mobile locations or sections that can keep up with smartphone ordering, otherwise it’ll be a huge mess.