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Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tim Hortons to move its Canadian head office

After 50 years in Oakville, the coffee chain says it will be better equipped to innovate in Toronto’s core.

Tim Hortons to move its Canadian head office
(EDUARDO LIMA / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)
Tim Hortons will occupy about 65,000 sq. ft. on the third floor and fourth floors of the 36-storey Exchange building at King and York Sts.in Toronto
By TESS KALINOWSKI, Real Estate Reporter

Tim Hortons is moving its Canadian headquarters to downtown Toronto’s Exchange Tower after more than 50 years in Oakville.

The change that will affect all 400 head office employees is expected to take place by the end of the year and is part of a corporate modernization plan, said Tim Hortons president Alex Macedo on Monday.

“We want to make sure our company, our brand, remains very contemporary. We want to be a more innovative company so that we can continue to fuel the growth not only for the brand, but for our restaurant owners,” he said.

Calling the move “a very significant investment,” Macedo said the company expects the downtown location will help “provide better marketing plans, launch more appetizing products and make sure we get more guests into the restaurants.”

Suburban-based corporations are increasingly moving into downtown areas in a bid to attract talented employees who want the amenities, lifestyle and quick commute available in the core, said George Spezza, Toronto’s director of Business Growth Services in Economic Development and Culture.

“Employers will go where the talent is. We’re seeing a huge concentration of younger talent in the downtown area,” he said. “You’re seeing a trend of companies wanting to be closer to access that talent.”

Cost factors into location decisions and the 905-area communities surrounding Toronto have had an advantage but “that gap is narrowing,” said Spezza.

Overall, Canadian cities are enjoying a commercial-property boom with sales reaching a record $43 billion last year, according to a report from CBRE Group Inc. earlier this year.

In Toronto, Tim Hortons’ move follows Coca-Cola, Google and eBay, which have all set up in the core in the last five years. The city’s ability to compete has lately been underlined by its place on Amazon’s 20-city long short list of possible headquarters sites — a list whittled down from 238.

The downtown, particularly the central business district, is exploding, attracting creative and technology-based industries, said Spezza.

“A number of the professional service firms, the Deloittes, the KPMGs, the PWCs, have consolidated a lot of their operations and moved into the downtown core,” he said.

Tim’s will occupy about 65,000 sq. ft. on the third floor and fourth floors of the 36-storey Exchange building at King and York Sts.

“Our focus on innovation labs, idea sharing and creativity will be core to our new space,” the company said on Tuesday.

Headquartered in Oakville since it opened its first restaurant in 1964, Tim Hortons will retain “a significant presence” there with its Tim’s University training centre for franchisees and managers, said Macedo. But the fate of its existing building, near Dorval Dr. and the QEW, has not yet been determined.

Oakville is sad to see Tim’s leave, but its location there “will be an excellent, strategic opportunity for other businesses,” said a statement from Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.

“Over the last year, we have attracted nearly 1,000 jobs and issued nearly $300 million of new construction building permits,” he added.

About half of the head office staff live in the Oakville area, the other half commute there from Toronto. Macedo said Tim Hortons employees will be fully supported in the move and the company’s innovation efforts.

“We’re going to take advantage of everything Toronto has to offer to make sure our employees are happy about the move. We’re going to train them in innovation, we’re going to train them in culinary, we’re going to train them in everything that’s very easily available in Toronto that perhaps they can’t find in Oakville,” he said.

“Ultimately, I think everyone will understand that the main reason that we’re going out there is to understand what our guests want so we can provide for them as quickly as possible,” said Macedo.

Last month, Tim Hortons announced it was renovating its stores with lighter, “natural looking” exteriors and upgraded interiors.

Macedo was appointed to head up the brand last December after earning a reputation for rescuing strained franchisee relations at Burger King, another brand owned by Tim’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International (RBI).

Some Tim Hortons store owners — those belonging to a group called the Great White North Franchise Association — have lately complained that RBI, part of Brazilian parent 3G Capital, is mismanaging the business by downloading costs onto franchisees and introducing cost-cutting measures that lower the restaurant standards.

About 1,800 of Tim Hortons 4,000 Canadian stores are located in Ontario.

Toronto has 3.6 million sq. ft. of recently completed office space and another 7.4 million sq. ft. under construction.

Downtown Toronto experienced historically low office vacancy rates late last year, according to a report from commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield. It showed rents in the financial core for Class A office space averaged $29 per sq. ft., compared to $17.81 in the Mississauga City Centre and $12.43 in Oakville.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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