One of my most prized possessions, a Tim Hortons travel mug.
I spend a lot of time in Canada. When I go there I always stop at Tim Hortons. This is not hard. It would be hard not to stop at Tim Hortons. They're everywhere. They make Starbucks look like an out of the way little local cafe.
I usually get a cup of coffee and a doughnut, which is what they're all about -- my favorite is the sour cream glazed. But their paninis are pretty good, too.
It's not so much that Tim Hortons' coffee is great or that the food is exceptional, because it's not. In fact, it's the very ordinariness of the whole experience that makes it nice. It's like your mom making you a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup for lunch. In an era when eating has become a competition, Tim Hortons is unassuming. You just get what you pay for, and you don't pay much.
I love Canada and Canadians, and I feel sort of bad that so much of their culture gets imposed on them from south of the border, even though British, French and other influences contribute to that mashup as well.
So I share Canadians' angst when they see a big American company, Burger King, taking over their iconic institution. It would be like the Chinese buying McDonald's -- they haven't yet, have they? Nobody in Canada seems pacified because the company will still be headquartered there. The consensus seems to be that Burger King is only doing that for tax reasons. It will be in Canada, but not of Canada.
I'm not so concerned that Burger King will somehow change Tim Hortons. I expect they won't mess with success. The coffee and doughnuts will continue to be consistently okay. But I'm concerned that Tim Hortons will eventually be everywhere in the U.S., just as it is in Canada. And because there are so many more of us than there are of them, it will become ours more than it is theirs. It won't be special anymore.
Tim Hortons said in a statement that this is exactly what the company wants, that it has always desired the brand to be international. I don't know. Maybe that's right. Maybe everyone wants more of the ordinary and familiar, and maybe coffee and a doughnut will contribute to the international language of comfort. World peace could result. In that case, Canadians would have made a truly valuable contribution to global culture.