9 months on from Popeyes merger, Tims China posts record growth

Canadian comfort food chain Tim Hortons just witnessed its strongest ever single-quarter growth in the Chinese market.

According to the company’s Q3 financial report released last week, Tims China achieved 436 million RMB (55.8 million USD) in revenue in Q3, a year-on-year jump of 42.7%. Its Q1-Q3 growth was equally impressive, reaching 1.19 billion RMB (166 million USD) and a year-on-year growth rate of 66.9%.

Taking its cues from Luckin (now China’s biggest coffee chain), Tims China has upped its convenience this year with smaller, hole-in-the-wall “Tims Go” outlets. Since 2021, Tims has also inked multiple local collaborations, including teaming up with Tencent to open up esports cafés in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Tims China started business in China in 2019, operating as a joint venture between the Canadian multi-national fast food holding capital Restaurant Brands International (RBI) and the private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group.

Then in February this year, Tims China obtained the exclusive rights to distribute products and services within China under the Popeyes brand name. The merger came hot on the heels of the launch of the Canadian brand’s official Chinese-language name, Tianhao Coffee (literally “good day coffee”), which expresses the “atmosphere and spirit of Tims China”.

Before inking the agreement with Popeyes, Tims China had 600 stores in China, with plans to get that figure to 1,000 before the end of 2023. With over a month left to go, the company is still several hundred stores shy of that objective. There are currently 763 Tims coffee outlets across 56 cities and over 16 million registered Tims Rewards members.

The company is betting on lightspeed brick-and-mortar expansion in the market over the next few years, with the goal of 3,000 stores nationwide set for 2026. For context, Starbucks, which has been operating in China since 1999, is currently hovering around the 7,000 mark.

Following the merger, the first Popeyes store in China also opened its door in Shanghai this August, complete with a stage for jazz performances – a nod to the brand’s New Orleans roots. Popeyes’ entry into the Chinese market is back on an upward trajectory after all nine of its China outlets shut in quick succession between August 2022 and April 2023. Next, the brand is working on honing its fried chicken recipe by striking a careful balance between its world-famous Cajun flavour and localised touches for regional Chinese markets.

“This [Q3 financial result] is the market’s affirmation of the company’s business strategy,” says Tims China CEO Lu Yongchen.

“Amid fierce competition in the future market, Tims Tianhao China will continue to strengthen its brand competitiveness, improve product innovation and operational capabilities, and further enhance Tims China’s brand influence and profitability.”


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