TORONTO — Just one short year ago, Marc Caira was living in Switzerland, planning his retirement after a combined 25 years at Nestlé. But, it turns out he wasn’t ready to settle down and accepted the role of president and CEO of Tim Hortons.
Caira sat down with Rosanna Caira, editor and publisher of F&H magazine (and his cousin), to share his plans for the storied company with nearly 200 foodservice professionals at Toronto’s Four Seasons hotel as part of the latest instalment of Kostuch Media’s Icons and Innovators series.
Since taking the helm last summer, the 59-year-old has been bringing his expertise from Nestlé and Parmalat Canada to the 50-year-old brand. “I don’t have restaurant experience,” he admitted to the crowd. “But, when you look at the role of CEO today, it’s changed,” he said, adding that he brings strategy and an understanding of consumer behaviour to the table.
And, although the coffee industry has had a couple of tough quarters, Caira is not worried. After all, Tim Hortons remains the highest-grossing restaurant company in Canada, with a reported $6.4 billion in sales in 2012, according to F&H’s Top 100 Report, with nearly 3,500 units in Canada, 800 in the U.S. and a handful in the Middle East.
Caira expects to continue that overall trajectory through growth and innovation in a new highly competitive era populated by customers who are connected, value-conscious and brimming with knowledge. “You can’t just compete in the new era with a machine gun, you’ve really got to be focused,” he said, continuing on to explain how he expects to grow the average check and grow business through single-serve coffee (available in supermarkets in June) and ready-to-drink beverages. He’s also streamlining business with faster service and some 50 less products.
That said, the team is testing new coffee blends and introducing innovations in healthy options, such as its new lower-fat turkey sausage breakfast sandwich. It’s also leading the charge in mobile payment technology and loyalty cards. Caira showcased a new co-branded Loyalty Rewards Visa credit card, the Double Double, which rewards customers one per cent back in “Tim Cash,” which can be applied to any Tim Hortons’ purchase.
The CEO’s goal is to re-establish the brand to be bold, daring and different. “It’s a privilege, an honour to be entrusted with this brand and my responsibility is to bring it to the next level,” he said. “The challenge for me is to find ways to compete while differentiating.” Tim Hortons will remain the same at its heart. “This is not a business that needed to be fixed,” stressed Caira. “This is a business that needed to be evolved.”