Canada’s Beloved Doughnut Chain Faces Uphill Battle Against Dunkin,’ McD’s in the US
Hortons: U.S. awareness is low, but the chain has $200 million in U.S. sales. From Advertising Age

Horton's: U.S. awareness is low, but the chain has $200 million in U.S. sales. From Advertising Age

Emily Bryson York writes an interesting article in Advertising Age asking the question: “Just how important is it to be first?” Ask Tim Horton’s, the self-described McDonald’s of Canada, which is struggling for a foothold in the U.S. market.

Horton’s has built a massive following in Canada — and developed a small cult in the U.S. — based on high-quality coffee, indulgent doughnuts and what’s described as consistently good service. When it comes to the States, Darren Tristano, exec VP of Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant-industry consultancy, said Tim Horton’s might be paying the price for being second.

“When you look at the Canadian marketplace, they were first to market, and that’s a big deal,” he said. “The opposite is true here. Dunkin’ Donuts is approaching 6,000 locations, and they’re coming into Dunkin’s backyard and trying to compete on quality.” Horton’s has about 500 U.S. locations, concentrated in Western New York, Ohio and Michigan. The chain has about 3,500 locations in Canada.

Dunkin’ is based in Canton, Mass., with a loyal following in the Northeast. Horton’s closed “underperforming” stores in New England late last year. Mr. Tristano added that Dunkin’ has conversely faced an uphill battle breaking into the Canadian market.

Still, it doesn’t seem to take much Horton’s exposure to make a fan. Anthony Claudia, a Telluride, Colo.-based film executive, tried the coffee while working on a project in Ontario. “It’s kind of like the Canadian version of Dunkin’ Donuts, but a lot better,” he said.

Read the Whole Story at Advertising Age