Rumours about Timmy's?

August 18, 2009 by Dave Haynes

Daily DOOH has had a couple of posts up about rumours that Tim Horton’s, the iconic coffee/doughnut chain that dots the Canadian landscape, is shopping its digital signage business – business now held by London, Ontario-based EK3.

I have heard things here and there, as well, but nothing substantial to go on. But it’s out there now, so let’s look at it.

As perspective, I live about 10 minutes from the head office of TDL Group, and there are at least four Timmys shops within walking distance of my armed mountaintop compound. If you have never been to a Tim’s in Canada or the US northeast, the most similar type of shop would be Dunkin Donuts, though there are big, big differences. In each Tim’s. there is a single LCD panel mounted between the static menu boards, right in the centre, facing people waiting in lines. And in most Tim’s, there are lines. Long lines, sometimes out-the-door long. I daydream of being reincarnated as a Tim’s franchise owner in downtown Toronto or at the airport.

It wouldn’t be all that surprising for Tim’s to be doing a vendor review because they started with EK3 many, many years ago and the DS world – particularly cost of hardware and software – has changed massively over that time. Any chance someone got, they would no doubt whisper in a Tim exec’s ear that they were paying too much for technology and a better deal could be had. NOT that I ever did that in my software sales days …

If the chatter is indeed accurate, it probably reflects the parent company seeing what’s out there in a quest to get a better deal from the incumbent. There are 3,000-plus installed sites now, I think, and I can’t imagine the Timmy’s people wanting a big change-out project if they don’t need to do it. The DS component is baked into the new build costs for stores, so the franchisees don’t get a chance to debate the merits of screens. You want a store, you get a screen.

The company is also testing, with EK3, full menu board systems, and while to casual observers this looks about as simple a set-up as could be imagined, the ER3 and Tim’s back-of-shop systems are somewhat integrated.  

All I really know on this is I am in buying an extra large – two milks, all the time, and I like the simplicity of what they have done. A visual of gooey milk chocolate melting off a hot doughnut undoubtedly helps move more units. Stephen Ghigliotty of Artisan calls that sort of content “food porn.”

I have never seen a blue screen, and certainly never heard reliability is an issue. So if there’s a problem, my guess – repeat guess – is it is on price. When you have the biggest non-lottery DS network in Canada, you have some bargaining power to get a better deal.

Undoubtedly, other software vendors like EnQii and AdFlow (both with offices maybe five minutes from TDL) are tapping their feet excitedly, but unless there is a big underlying problem or TDL really is spooked about EK3 looking for money or to sell, I don’t see this changing shops.

Famous last words, I know. 

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