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RBI CEO blasts media, franchisees for Tim Hortons press coverage

Notoriously tight-lipped company tries to open up during first-quarter earnings call

If you don't like what people are saying about you, change the conversation.

Daniel Schwartz, president of Restaurant Brand International, tested out this operating ethos during his company’s first quarter earning call on Monday.

Restaurant Brands International Inc.

Recently, media reports have surfaced over tensions between the company and Tim Horton franchisees, particularly over the brand’s planned revamp. During the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call Schwartz blamed these stories for “negatively impacted our guests’ perception of our brand and our community roots.”

Comparative-store sales at Tim Hortons fell 0.3 percent during the first quarter. But this was not the first quarter of weak sales for the brand. Systemwide sales grew 2.1 percent for the quarter ended March 31. 

 “Needless to say, we’re not pleased with the narrative in the media,” he said. “These misrepresentations undermine the good honest intentions of our franchise restaurant owners, their team members, and our employees, all of whom worked tirelessly every day to do their best for our guests and for our great Tim Hortons brand. We’ve already made changes to our communication strategy and we’re committed to doing a better job of communicating our story based on observable facts.

Historically, RBI, parent company of Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Tim Hortons, hasn’t even been part of the conversation.

 “Another thing that is a little different about us is that even when things are going well, we don't like to promote our results,” Schwartz continued. “We keep our heads down and we focus on driving strong sustained growth. Because of that, we have not historically dedicated much time to media relations to tell our story.”

Despite Schwartz’s rhetoric, the overall company beat expectations for the first quarter. At Burger King, comparable store sales rose 3.8 percent, and at Popeyes, comparable-store sales grew by 3.2 percent. 

Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @gloriadawson

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