On Feb. 11, Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons opened its first store in an upscale shopping mall in Lahore, Pakistan. The 8,000 square foot outlet offers in-restaurant seating for more than 150 customers as well as a drive-thru, in partnership with Turkish company Blue Foods Ltd. Reports indicate the new location had the highest opening sales in the chain’s history since it launched in Canada in 1964. According to an online menu, a small coffee costs 350 rupees, the equivalent of US$1.30, and a large flavoured coffee is double that. Sandwiches cost in the range of 750 rupees.
Reuters reported that Pakistanis were standing in line for “hours” to try the new coffee outlet. Social media posts showed hundreds of people lining up for the first branch of the coffee shop in the city, and some social media posts and news organizations called attention to pictures of throngs of hungry and poor residents lining up for subsidized flour, contrasted with others lined up for coffee and pastries from the coffee giant.
Local journalist Riaz ul Haq posted a video on Twitter, stating, “On one hand poor are lining up for one bag of subsidised flour and riches are queu[ing] up for Tim Hortons coffee.”
“Higher prices don’t really matter for the class of people coming here,” said Ahmad Javed, a medical student, who lived in Canada and went to the Canadian coffee chain. He told Reuters, “Rich people in Pakistan are getting richer, the poor are becoming poorer while the middle class is struggling.” Another customer, Pareeshay Khan, said he was there “to taste the coffee that’s the top social media trend. I don’t know about the price, nor do I care.”
Tim Hortons is owned by Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which also owns Burger King, Popeyes, and Firehouse Subs. Revenues last year were reported as growing 14 percent to $7.16 billion. In Canada alone, Tim Hortons generated sales growth of 13 percent with total sales at $6.03 billion, despite closing 53 stores across Canada.
In March 2022, Tim Hortons announced it would open a store in New Delhi, India, and already operated 40 restaurants in the Philipines, plus coffee shops in Thailand and China. In total, Tim’s has 5,300 retail locations in 13 countries, with the greatest number of stores in Canada.
The coffee chain first announced it would open in Pakistan in May 2022 and said it intends to open two additional stores in Lahore, but did not respond by press time to requests for further information. At the time of last year’s announcement, the economic situation in Pakistan was different, with inflation at only 13.8 percent. This month, Pakistan’s currency dropped more than 25 percent in value against the U.S. dollar, and fuel prices have risen by a fifth. The average minimum wage as set by the government is 25,000 rupees, or the equivalent of US$94 per month, and the country has a population of more than 230 million. Some news reports state Pakistan is close to bankruptcy with inflation at a 45-year high. The country’s reserves reportedly fell to a nine-year low on Feb. 9, to below $3 billion.