TORONTO (AP) — North American free trade might be under threat, but Mexicans will soon import a big taste of Canada.
Tim Hortons is expanding into Mexico, making it the company's first Latin American market. Restaurant Brands International Inc. said Friday it has teamed up with a group of investors in Mexico to form a joint venture and open branches of the coffee, bakery and sandwich chain.
Few things unite Canadians the way Tim Hortons does. For half a century, they have warmed themselves on chilly mornings with the chain's coffee and Timbits — or doughnut holes to Americans.
It is a beloved homegrown chain. Seventy-five percent of the all the coffee sold at fast food restaurants in Canada comes from "Timmy's," as it is affectionately known.
Tim Hortons is found in just about every small town and large city across Canada, and hockey-mad Canadians often head to their local Timmy's before or after their kids' games. The "Tim Hortons crowd" is popular with blue-collar Canadians. While some wealthier Canadians might prefer Starbucks, most just want a Timmy's double-double.
Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, said in a statement that the company is committed to taking its brand around the world. "Mexico has a thriving coffee market, so we are very optimistic about the opportunity to grow the brand across the country."
That would put the company in competition in Mexico not only with Starbucks — which shares a franchise operator in Mexico with Burger King — but a growing number of other national and international coffee chains.
Restaurant Brands International was formed when Burger King, which is based in Miami but controlled by a Brazilian private equity fund, merged with Tim Hortons in 2014. That merger attracted a lot attention in Canada but both Burger King and Tim Hortons continue to be run independently.
Tim Hortons has more than 4,400 restaurants located in Canada, the United States and the Middle East.
The chain's aura in Canada originates from its namesake: hockey Hall of Famer Tim Horton, the co-founder who died at 44 in a 1974 car accident after playing in a game for the Buffalo Sabres. In a long run with Canada's most popular NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the defenseman won four Stanley Cups, including Toronto's last in 1967. That, and the chain's omnipresence, puts his fame in Canada on the order of a New York Yankees baseball legend like Mickey Mantle or Yogi Berra.