A Dissection of the Tim Horton’s Traffic Jam Dilemma

Why is This Franchise So Magnetic It’s Causing Traffic Issues?

Tim Horton’s locations on Water Street West and Harvey Road have had to redesign their drive-thrus to end traffic congestion, and now the location on Torbay Road is in the news – and being discussed by city council – for jamming up traffic.

In fact, parents using a nearby daycare can’t even get into the lot to pick up their children. And there’s concern the same road rage will ensue on Blackmarsh Road soon, if a proposal for yet another Tim Horton’s location is approved.

You’d think these long lines of coffee-hunting cars would speak to quality of product, but a public poll begs to differ. Despite the myth that Canadians love their Timmies, and the notion Tim Horton’s is as Canadian as hockey and needless apologies, a considerable portion of coffee connoisseurs can’t bring themselves to even call it coffee. As one European in town told us for this article, “I tried Tim Horton’s several times but I can’t drink it. It tastes not of coffee, but a kind of industrial taste that makes you believe it is coffee!” A fair comment when you think about it: how can anything produced at that volume and sold at that price be a quality cup of coffee? The stuff tastes like coffee-flavoured water or coffee made from simulated coffee beans. It seems clear that for every person who loves the stuff, there’s another saying, “Tim’s coffee is swill. Undrinkable. Very hot. Very weak. I know it is cheap but so is boiling my own kettle and running the water through my dirty wool socks. And I’ve never lined up for that privilege.” (That’s our food writer, Emily Deming, putting it mildly.)

So if it’s not the coffee congesting traffic, what is it? The convenience factor? The sandwiches to go? The baked goods? Doubtful, since our public poll made it clear that an overwhelming number of people agree places like Fixed, Rocket, Coffee & Company and Coffee Matters have not only better coffee, but better food on the run. “Fixed’s bagels are the best in town,” one man said, “Tim Horton’s food tastes like eating a package of preservatives, whereas Rocket’s sandwiches of the day are the best lunch around.”

That leaves the convenience of their locations and drive-thrus – you can’t get from point A to point B in this town without passing a Tim’s, and so we pull in? To quote one responder, “People dies for a drive-thru, it’s usually next to empty inside. It’s not even about saving time or being efficient, it’s about being lazy and not getting out of your warm car on gross days. The coffee is gross, but not as gross as our dependence on being sedentary.”

As another person told us, “It’s almost always open and there’s one on every other corner.” A sentiment echoed by this poll result, “It all comes down to convenience. Sure, other coffees may be better, but Tim’s is quick, and there’s likely one right in your path as you head to work.”

If it’s this clear that convenience – not boston crèmes nor double-doubles – is king, then why aren’t more great local coffee shops throwing down foundations on roads like Torbay, Topsail, and Stavenger? Must all good coffee and culture exist downtown? It seems obvious that more than half of these drive-thru junkies would jump ship to a quality, local coffee shop if there was one on their way to work. So the takeaway message from our poll is this: Canada doesn’t love Tim Horton’s, Canada loves convenience. Hopefully someone’s willing to test this theory.

Article by Chad Pelley

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3 Comments

  • Most of us are not European “connoisseurs” or alternative newspaper columnists. I personally don’t like Tim’s coffee, but the coffee at McDonald’s is great, far better than anything downtown and at a much better price. The ridiculous prices at local trendy coffee shops has nothing to do with quality, it is all about perceived hipness. Put one of those places on Stavanger all you want, I\ll be heading to the McD’s drive-thru.

  • If one of the local houses put a new spot on or around Stavanger, they would almost immediately start drawing customers away from Tim’s, Starbucks and Second Cup. And I think it’d be quite hard to do so without also putting a drive thru in said spot because of the high traffic of the area. Admittedly I frequent Second Cup because it’s the only decent shop in the east end, but if there were a more homegrown spot to open up around this area with a drive thru, I’d switch. Much rather put my money into a local coffee house since the prices are pretty much the same anyway.

  • I would love to see some local coffee shops expand or migrate away from the downtown core. I know it’s fantastic for the folks that work & live downtown but it would be nice to have at least one local spot in the east, west or central in the city too.

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