Tim Hortons, franchisees in legal spat over ‘shattering’ coffee pots

Restaurant Brands International says the claims of faulty coffee pots are “false accusations”

The parent company of Tim Hortons is denying a claim by a group of franchisees that the coffee pots they’re required to use have been shattering and injuring employees.

Restaurant Brands International says the claims of faulty coffee pots are yet another ”false accusation” from a group of franchisees with whom the company has been embroiled in a war of words and lawsuits for more than a year.

“We continue to receive reports of shattering coffee and tea pots,” reads a letter from Peter Proszanski, a lawyer at Toronto-based Himelfarb Proszanski and the Great White North Franchisee Association’s counsel, to the head of legal at Tim Hortons dated Thursday, Aug. 30.

The letter alleges an “unprecedented” number of such incidents, including one as recently as August 29, have emerged since the association asked members to report any issues. The association is an unsanctioned franchisee group started more than a year ago to give a voice to restaurant owners concerned over alleged mismanagement. It claims to represent about half of Canada’s franchisees and also has an American chapter.

RELATED: Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

“Franchisees and their employees are currently suffering from serious injuries as a result of the shattering coffee and tea pots,” Proszanski wrote, including “burnt thighs, feet and genitals.”

The group first brought the issue to RBI more than a year ago in a letter dated July 21, 2017, according to the letter. Though RBI acknowledged the group’s concern, it failed to follow up, Proszanski wrote.

The group wants RBI to investigate the pots, which it says appear to weigh less than ones previously used, according to the letter.

It alleges the coffee and tea pots put franchisees, employees and customers at risk, and asks for permission to source the pots from another suppliers.

If the company fails to respond by September 7, Proszanski wrote the group will interpret that as consent to choose an alternate supplier.

RBI denies the allegations.

“I can tell you with certainty that the suggestion that Tim Hortons or RBI in any way has changed the manufacturing of our coffee pots is 100 per cent false,” wrote spokeswoman Jane Almeida in an emailed statement.

The company spoke to the manufacturer, which confirmed it has not changed how it makes or sources the product in over a decade, she said. The manufacturer also informed RBI that other brands using the same pot have not reported such issues.

“We have conducted extensive quality assurance testing that has proven that the only way to consistently replicate the breakage of a glass pot is if it is used incorrectly.”

When asked if RBI is considering pursuing legal action against the association, Almeida said “it would be inappropriate to comment.”

The franchisee group “makes frequent and false accusations for the sole purpose of what we can only believe is generating media awareness for their small group,” she said in her initial statement.

The group sent the letter to RBI and one hour later to the media, she said, which “tells you everything you need to know about their sincerity in working with the company.”

Some franchisees and management have had a tense relationship since RBI took over the coffee-and-doughnut chain.

The association filed a class-action lawsuit against RBI in June 2017, alleging it improperly used money from a national advertising fund. The company denies the allegations and they have not been proven in court.

RELATED: Air Canada app breach may affect up to 20,000 customers

It’s one of several lawsuits between the group, which alleges mismanagement, and the company, which has expressed frustration at the association’s public besmirching of the brand.

RBI executives owned up to making mistakes in how they’ve dealt with franchisees in the past, but say they’re now committed to better communication with restaurant owners and a new “winning together” plan to improve customer experience and sales.

The company’s been working overtime to overcome some of its recent negative publicity, testing multiple initiatives. Restaurants in three Canadian cities partnered with food-delivery app Skip the Dishes to try out the system, and a kids’ menu is still in the conceptual testing phase.

Some restaurants in and around the Greater Toronto Area are trying out self-service kiosks. Diners have noticed a quirk in the system, like how it allows customers to add up to 10 eggs on a breakfast sandwich.

Tim Hortons president Alex Macedo said that option may be finessed as he’s not certain it’s even possible to serve the sandwich that way — or eat it.

It’s unlikely the company will implement the kiosks in every restaurant, he said. Locations that primarily serve customers via a drive-thru wouldn’t have much need for one, for example.

Restaurants in two Ontario cities, meanwhile, have started to trial different versions of the chain’s upcoming loyalty program dubbed coffee pass, said RBI’s chief corporate officer Duncan Fulton.

“It’s designed to reward our most valuable customers who frequent Tim Hortons multiple times a week,” he said.

The loyalty program will eventually be rolled out nationally, merged into the Tim Hortons app, and expanded to include food — not just coffee.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

There’s a Billy Barker Days buzz around Quesnel

The 45th annual festival kicks off Thursday, July 18 and runs until Sunday, July 21

Prince George man charged with making, possessing, distributing child pornography

Shawn Robert Dick, 52, of Prince George is facing several charges following the police investigation

CRD develops internal policy for single-use plastics for its own operations

Chair Margo Wagner said the CRD is proud to be taking steps to reduces its environmental footprint

Chief calls for state of emergency and fishery closure in light of Big Bar slide in Fraser River

Chief Robbins said his own community of Esket will not fish until the slide is dealt with

Update: Severe thunderstorm watch upgraded to warning for Cariboo North including Quesnel

Potential for strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain in the afternoon

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

B.C. mom to go to Europe court in hopes of getting alleged abducted daughter back

Tasha Brown alleges her estranged wife abducted their daughter Kaydance Etchells in 2016

Most Read