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How Restaurant Brands International Grew During the Pandemic

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Restaurant Brands International’s portfolio includes Burger King, as well as Tim Hortons and Popeyes. (iStock/felixmizioznikov)

As companies went into 2020, they had no idea what was in store for them, particularly with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. This included Restaurant Brands International (RBI) Inc., which owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons. In a recent year-end letter, CEO Jose Cil said that the company had to reset its priorities to help win the fight against the virus.

But RBI’s motivation and mindset were changed for the better, thanks to what it endured during the pandemic For example, “We learned that our investments to drive accelerated digital sales came just at the right time as our guests’ purchasing habits rapidly moved online during the pandemic,” Cil recalled. “We learned that the enduring value of drive-thru as a safe and efficient sales channel, especially with governments mandating dining room closures.”

RBI also managed to take steps forward in multiple areas, including food quality. For example, at its Burger King brand, the company made the famous Whopper free of colors, flavors and preservatives from artificial sources, while it also launched fresh, cracked eggs in all of its breakfast sandwiches at Tim Hortons, and launched a new dark roast blend of coffee.

“We learned that our investments to drive accelerated digital sales came just at the right time as our guests’ purchasing habits rapidly moved online during the pandemic.”

In addition, all three brands are planning for more product quality launches in 2021, including a new chicken sandwich at Burger King, new lunch sandwiches and expansion of its cold beverages at Tim Hortons, and new innovations at Popeyes. “This is a deliberate journey, now more than a year-long at each of the brands, to create quality, craveable menu items that excite our guests.”

RBI also enhanced its drive-thru experience with additions that include digital menu boards that changed the way that guests interacted with its brands. “All indications are that our guests are excited by the better, quicker and contactless service they are receiving,” Cil said, noting that the company also increased its focus on improving and personalizing its interactions with guests through its digital platforms.

The company also increased support for and built on its e-commerce platforms, reimagined service opportunities like curbside pickup, and grew delivery services into thousands of new restaurants. “The outcome has been the more than doubling of digital sales in North America,” he said, adding that RBI has enjoyed success with the adoption of its Tims Rewards program in Canada, with more than one-third of all Canadian adults using it within 18 months of its launch.

Another area where RBI grew was in its environmental initiatives. The company advanced work on sustainable packaging and recycling, created animal welfare and deforestation policies, changed its use of real ingredients and completed a carbon footprint analysis that will help it make new commitments this year.

In addition, it made commitments on diversity and inclusion in 2020 and again received a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index as a positive LGBTQ+ workplace. “And, for the first time in our history, we were certified as a Great Place to Work because of positive reviews from our employees across more than 60 questions about culture and management,” Cil added. “This reflects the hard work of so many of our managers who have kept our teams close and engaged every day while many have been working from home.”

Click here to read the letter.

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