Tim Hortons To Put Digital Signage In Most Canadian Units

Bakery-cafe operator and franchisor Tim Hortons expects to have digital menu and marketing boards in most of its 3,300-plus locations in Canada by year's end, according to chain officials.

Alexandra Cygal, Tim Hortons Inc. manager of public affairs, recently said that the primarily franchised chain has "targeted" more than 3,000 Canadian locations to receive digital menu and promotion boards by the end of the year. Comments by other company officials during an earnings conference call for the second quarter ended July 1 indicated that digital signage was in place at approximately 60 percent, or 1,996, of the chain's Canadian locations, which numbered 3,326 at the end of that period.

Tim Hortons officials, in conference calls and financial reports, have spoken about the reasons for installing digital menu and marketing boards in strictly general terms. Executive chairman, interim chief executive and president Paul D. House said in a recent quarterly results conference call that the technology is "offering compelling guest visuals to showcase our products," and in the copy of recent financial disclosure documents the company said only that digital menu and promotions boards "to enhance our overall guest experience at our Canadian restaurants."

Public affairs manager Cygal told NRN that monthly promotional product news is shown on the new in-store displays, among other content. When asked how Tim Hortons was benefiting from the use of the technology, she cited "excellent product imagery and appetite appeal, ease of ordering/menu navigation for our guests [and] efficient change of pricing and content across the chain."

Cygal said some of the chain's more than 700 locations in the United States have or will get digital signage and she noted that all 99 of the dual-branded Cold Stone Creamery-Tim Hortons units in operation in America already have the technology.

Oakville, Ontario-based Tim Hortons is only the second large chain in North America to move to a fully digital menu board system, with its deployment coming on the heels of Burger King's recently completed rollout of the technology to approximately 6,542 U.S. locations and its current effort to add similar displays in Canada.

Some other large chains have opted to augment conventional menu board systems with some digital menu panels or promotional displays, including McDonald's, which reportedly has such technology tied to its McCafe product line in more than 12,600 U.S. locations.

Other heavy hitters are testing or more slowly deploying digital signage, including Subway, which as of earlier this year had purely promotional "Subway TV" images and messaging on flat screen displays visible to guests in the service line in 1,000 domestic locations.

Tim Hortons Advertising and Promotion Fund (Canada) Inc. is behind the expanded menu board program of which interior digital signage is a part, and it acquired and installed in restaurants LCD displays, media players, drive-thru menu boards and other ancillary equipment. To fund that effort, the company said, the ad fund has entered into a $95.8 million revolving credit facility collateralized only by the ad fund's assets, from which the ad fund had borrowed $42.5 million as of July 1, 2012.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at alan.liddle@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @AJ_NRN