Canadian coffee brand Tim Hortons China (Tims China) has received an exclusive strategic investment of more than RMB 100 million from Chinese tech giant Tencent. Tencent also owns shares in Tims China. After this round of financing, Tims China will accelerate the opening of storefronts in the Chinese market while exploring digital channels such as a WeChat mini program.
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Tims China is the first coffee brand Tencent has invested in. According to Tencent’s investment practice in the past that bets heavily on only one brand in one industry, Tims China is likely to become Tencent’s only coffee brand investment in China.
Jose Cil, global CEO of RBI, and Lu Yongchen, CEO of Tims China, told 36Kr that Tims would open 1,500 stores in China in the next few years. With the new expansion plan, China will account for more than 20% of its global stores, becoming its second-biggest market after Canada. According to Lu, Tims China would expand primarily in first and second tier cities, making it a direct competitor with Alibaba fueled Starbucks China.
Before joining Tims China, Lu was the former CFO of Burger King who led its successful entrance into the Chinese market. The company said that Tencent’s well-rounded digital infrastructure would help the company reach as well as consolidate its desired customer base.
Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee company incorporated by Restaurant Brands International (RBI group). Founded in 2015, RBI Group now owns successful global fast food chains including Burger King and Popeyes. In May 2018, Tim Hortons’ parent company, RBI Group, and Cartesian Capital Group launched Tims China as a joint venture. In February 2019, Tims China officially entered the Chinese market, opening its first store in Shanghai.