By Tamsin McMahon - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
Despite big investments to spruce up stores and expand menus, once-thriving restaurant chains are suddenly struggling to get ahead
Analysts were understandably skeptical this month when Tim Hortons interim CEO Paul House blamed the company’s disappointing third-quarter financial results partly on “capacity issues” at some of its restaurants. Canada’s iconic coffee-and-doughnut chain reported that it’s on track to miss its annual growth target in part because lineups at some of its stores were simply too long. “In some ways, it is not good news, but in other ways, it is good news in the sense that . . . we’ve got lots of business,” House told a conference call last week.
It’s a remarkably positive spin on what has been an off year for the ubiquitous coffee chain. Sales growth at existing Tim Hortons stores has been below two per cent for the past two quarters, while growth of 2.3 per cent at U.S. stores fell well below its target of five per cent. What growth the company has seen has been from customers spending more at each visit, even as traffic to its stores declined. The report wasn’t all bad news. The chain did manage a $105.7-million profit for the quarter, up two per cent from a year ago. Continue…
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:27 PM - 0 Comments
Consumers increasingly demand meals that are not only healthier, but more ‘natural’
With their soft, mashed potato insides and crispy exteriors stamped in the shape of a happy face, McCain Foods’ frozen Smiles are marketed as a fun-to-eat children’s snack. They’re not supposed to explode. And yet, that’s what happened inside the Canadian food giant’s laboratory in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., as researchers attempted to “reformulate” the Smile’s long list of unpronounceable ingredients, part of a company-wide strategy to make its packaged foods more natural and wholesome.
Tony Locke, McCain’s director of product development, says the trouble began while trying to ditch mono- and di-glycerides, emulsifiers that help retain moisture in some packaged foods. Emboldened by previous success with frozen pizza pockets, Locke’s team added a mixture of yeast, wheat gluten and flaxseed to the Smiles. “It was working very well in the lab,” says Locke, referring to what was the 40th attempt to rejig the recipe. “But then when we went to scale it up, we actually had these little Smiles going down the line in the plant and coming out of the fryer and exploding. They would literally come out of the oil and burst.”
And that, in the form of a combustible little potato snack, is the huge and complex challenge faced by food companies as consumers increasingly demand meals that are not only healthier, but more “natural” and therefore, it’s reasoned, better for you. With the public spooked by everything from processed foods (too much salt, too many additives) to hormone-raised beef, food producers are suddenly bending over backwards to portray themselves as purveyors of local, fresh ingredients, and their suppliers as earthy, family-run outfits, as opposed to giant factory farms. The phrases “all-natural,” “naturally raised” and “cage-free” are everywhere.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 12:25 PM - 1 Comment
In the competitive fast-food breakfast industry, chains are literally giving away their goods to win customers
By 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the breakfast sandwich assembly line at the Subway restaurant on Granville St. in downtown Vancouver was in overdrive—English muffin, pre-cooked egg, sliced ham and cheese, then into the oven. Brush away crumbs. Repeat. Despite the frantic pace, the lineup spilled out the door and down the street, drawn by that siren call of the tired and hungry morning consumer—a free breakfast and coffee.
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but when it comes to breakfast, fast-food chains are doling out meals and coffee to anyone who’ll take them. Last November, Burger King Canada gave away free coffees every Friday, having earlier handed out complimentary breakfast sandwiches. Subway’s one-day breakfast and coffee giveaway was its second in 10 months. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has blitzed the morning crowd with free coffees five times since 2009, with each event lasting between one to two weeks.
The goal is invariably the same each time—to get as many new people as possible to try their offerings with the hope that some moochers come back for more as paying regulars.
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 17 Comments
Fellow citizens, we, too, have the means to make bread obsolete. Let’s do it for Canada.
KFC’s new Double Down—a bacon-and-cheese sandwich that features two pieces of fried chicken in place of the traditional bun—has been described by nutritionists as an affront to human health, by scientists as a potential contributor to childhood obesity and by Kirstie Alley as a mfwwwwa ahhhsdfldnf. (Her mouth was full.)
I, for one, have found a completely different reason to be outraged about the Double Down: we can’t buy one in Canada.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM - 17 Comments
The buffoons and boneheaded moves of 2009
Apple approved a “Baby Shaker” iPhone app, where users could shake their phones to turn a drawing of a crying baby into a quiet one. It was pulled when users complained that shaking babies is dangerous. Corporations always cave to the big baby lobby.
Burger King has a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy, but a branch in St. Louis, Mo., may have gone a little too far: they refused to serve a six-month-old baby for being barefoot. Workers claimed that a shoeless baby was a health hazard, but were overruled by upper management, which apologized and gave the baby’s mother a free meal. The big baby lobby strikes again.
When you’re a police officer about to go on a manhunt, where’s the best place to park your car? The train tracks. That’s what a Toronto cop decided one night in January. Then a Via train crashed into the vehicle. No one was hurt, but taxpayers had the privilege of replacing the car.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 4:45 PM - 7 Comments
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question…
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question to 605 people who frequently do (at least once a week). Perhaps unsurprisingly, most reported eating fast food because it’s… fast. But some of the other answers are even more telling.