The raisin bran muffin is back. Now, I don’t know if it’s a Canada-wide or perhaps even global thing; all I know is I can again get my favourite muffin, the most Canadian one, the immortal raisin bran, at my local Tim Hortons franchise.
So, no more humming and hawing at the order thingy in the drive-thru, no more holding up the line-up of cars and trucks while I try to make up my mind; things are moving along tickety-boo now ‘cause all I have to say is “I’ll have a raisin bran muffin, and a medium coffee with milk.”
And I say that with a certain bravado since I hold myself personally responsible for the change of heart, the coming to their senses in the highest levels of Tim Hortons’ management, all the way to Brazil.
It’s been more than a year since I wrote that column, but it must have had the desired effect. I’ll try not to gloat, but I think I’ll celebrate by giving it an encore, as first published in The Sun Times in August, 2014:
So, the truth is out finally. It’s now perfectly obvious, to me anyway, why just a couple of months ago our iconic Canadian fast-food giant decided to drop that most iconically Canadian baked goodie, the raisin bran muffin.
My millions of readers will recall how shocked I was to pull up at the Tim Hortons drive-thru order thingy as usual one morning on my way to Owen Sound and ordered my usual medium coffee with milk and a raisin bran muffin, plain, only to be told by the disembodied voice, “we don’t carry raisin bran muffins anymore.”
“You don’t carry raisin bran muffins anymore? You’ve got to be kidding!”
(Please note, I don’t as a rule use exclamations marks in my journalistic writing; but this was news that demanded something more than a period, period.)
Another, more mature male voice then came on, to explain that, yes, it was true, adding “sorry, sir,” before suggesting I might want to try one of their new, walnut-something muffins. I still haven’t figured out what the darn thing is called, though I confess I’ve tried it more than once.
I confess here too for the first time I’ve played a little mischief and, just for the heck of it, ordered a raisin bran muffin just to rub it in, to hear them tell me yet again, “sorry, sir we don’t carry them anymore” so I could say, in my deepest, darkest tone of disappointment, “ya, I know, but I still don’t understand why.”
But now I do.
Yes, indeed, I’ve got it all figured out. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’d be willing to bet it’s all about the recent, even more earth-shattering recent news that the American fast-food giant Burger King was buying Tim Hortons for an astonishing $11.4 Billion (U.S.).
I can just see them now, the 3G Capital honchos, the Brazilian-based majority owners of Burger King, at the bargaining table with the wide-eyed Tim Hortons guys. Suddenly Brazilian brows are furrowed as they go down the list of donuts, sandwiches, and muffins on the Tim’s menu. Double-chocolate donut, check; Boston Crème, check; chicken salad sandwich, check; fruit explosion muffin, check.
But what’s this? What’s this “raisin . . . raisin bran muffin? Raisin bran?”
“Well, yes sir, that’s our most popular muffin. It’s . . . well, it’s kind of like, you know, a traditional in Canadian home baking. Probably originated in Scotland. You know, at one time, believe it or not, most Canadians were of Scottish descent. Of course, Canada has become a much more multi-cultural country, especially in the big cities.
“It’s true small town, rural Canada is still somewhat less multi-cultural; and yes, Tims has a very loyal following in that part of the country. The small city of Owen Sound about three hours north of Toronto and nearby towns like Hepworth and Wharton, for example, have more Tims per Capita than just about many other area in Canada. The franchise owner up there, Fay Harshman is quite a remarkable success story and one of our best . . . “
“The raisin bran muffin has to go. If you, if we, as we hope, want to expand significantly in the international market, something as bland and prosaic as raisin bran, just doesn’t work anymore.”
“It is our most popular muffin. In fact . . .” Here the Tim’s guy paused as he leafed through some pages. “yes, it’s our most popular menu item, and . . .”
“It has to go.”
That was the end of it, in no uncertain terms. And the blockbuster, multi-billion-dollar deal went through.
And as we now know, it made top Google news for at least two days in Canada. It was so big, U.S. President Barack Obama was moved to put other, and one might argue, more serious world events and crises aside long enough to raise growing concerns about yet another corporation with head offices in the U.S. moving overseas, or to Canada, of all places, to get a better tax deal. (The new Burger King/Tim Hortons entity will be headquartered in Oakville.)
And to think it all came down to raisin bran, or not to raisin bran.
I jest, of course.
At any event, I trust the spirit of Tim Horton himself is circumlocuting in its sepulcher.
For the sake of those of younger generations who may not know that, yes, there really was a Tim Horton who opened the first Tim Horton’s donut restaurant in Hamilton, in 1964.
Miles G. “Tim” Horton was an all-star NHL defenceman who played most of his long career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was my favourite “Leaf” and regarded as the physically strongest man in the league. By the time he died in a car accident in 1974 Horton and his business partner Ron Joyce had it well on the way to big-time franchise territory with 40 outlets already established.
Joyce bought out the Horton family’s share of the business for a mere $1 million.
With the Burger King merger it’s now the third largest fast-food business in the world.