TORONTO —Some Tim Hortons locations have increased prices on their breakfast menus, its parent company said Friday, but made no connection to the minimum wage controversy that’s landed the brand in hot water.
“Regular adjustments to menu prices are a normal part of the restaurant business,” Restaurant Brands International (TSX:QSR) of Oakville, Ont., said in a brief statement after some social media users complained of price hikes.
“Some restaurants in select markets have slightly increased prices for some breakfast menu items.”
The increases come after the company faced a backlash from consumers when it was revealed some franchisees cut employee benefits to offset the impact of minimum wage hikes in Ontario, which increased to $14 per hour from $11.60 — a 21-per-cent jump — on Jan. 1.
Some Ontario Tim Hortons franchisees eliminated paid breaks, fully-covered health and dental plans, and other perks for their workers, changes that came to light after a letter from the owners of two Cobourg, Ont., franchisees circulated on social media.
Since then, angry consumers have taken to social media and encouraged others to #BoycottTimHortons to put pressure on the chain to reverse the changes. Protesters gathered outside Tim Hortons locations across Ontario this week, with hopes such rallies will send a message to franchisees and parent company Restaurant Brands International.
RBI has denounced the actions of some franchisees, who have said they have been left with no choice because the parent company, which controls product pricing, has not committed to a price hike.
The owner of the entire chain said last week that action by certain franchisees didn’t reflect its values. Tim Hortons said individual franchisees are responsible for setting employee wages and benefits, while complying with applicable laws.
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The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents half of Canadian Tim Hortons franchisees, said it hoped RBI would lower supply costs, reduce couponing or raise prices. When it did not, the association said, many franchisees were “left no alternative but to implement cost saving measures in order to survive.”
The association said the minimum wage hike and other changes to the province’s labour laws will cost the average franchisee $243,889.10 a year. The calculation assumes an extra $3.35 hourly per employee, which also includes costs such as increased vacation pay.
Who should take responsibility for that is at the heart of the latest round of finger-pointing in an ongoing blame game between some franchisees and their corporate parent. They have publicly sparred over alleged mismanagement and filed several lawsuits against each other in recent months.