Tim Hortons lovers, do not despair: you should have a place to sit down and enjoy your double-double, other than your vehicle, by the end of the year. So said Suzanne Desfosses, co-owner and operator of the city’s two Tim Hortons franchises.
She did admit that some customers were alarmed when they saw the restaurant on Old Airport Rd. without any external walls earlier this month, exposing the interior to the elements.
Desfosses pointed out that she told folks this summer that the renovations to the restaurant would be extensive and workers would be taking it “right down to the studs.” The walls and windows were replaced last week, just before the snow hit.
“We got all our concrete poured in time so that was the biggest thing I was worried about,” Desfosses said. “There is no problem with the work or the workers. It’s not like it’s -20.”
She added that this is the first major renovation to the building in the 25 years it has been there. It was replaced on a temporary basis by a large trailer – a mobile restaurant – when the existing facility closed for renovations. That happened within days of the new Tim Hortons franchise opening in the Centre Square Mall in August.
Desfosses said construction on the Old Airport Rd. site is pretty much going according to plan.
“We did get a few surprises when we were in the foundation with some of the water and sewer lines. That’s taken a little extra time but it’s really important that is done correctly,” Desfosses said. “I’d rather that we had the work done now so that we don’t have any future problems.”
Desfosses said she was relieved and happy to see the walls go up and the windows installed. She added that the work is being done with a B.C.-based contractor that specializes in Tim Hortons retrofits. A number of local sub-contractors have been hired as well.
Desfosses said there will be slightly more room for customers once the restaurant reopens, with seating capacity expanding from 65 to 73.
Mobile work spaces, including WiFi capability, will be added as well as more seats for families with children.
Desfosses said she was presently surprised with how many customers are using the mobile restaurant – both walk-up and drive-through.
“We’ve been exactly as busy last week as we were for the same week a year ago. We had 8,890 transactions for the week. Obviously we are missing our customers being able to come in, but the work had to be done,” Desfosses said. She added it is “short-term pain for long-term gain.”
When the restaurant opened in the Centre Square Mall, there was a small number of tables and chairs. Desfosses wanted to be clear, the tables were not removed due to the number of people loitering in the mall which has plagued it for years.
Chucker Dewar, the NWT fire marshal, said the tables and chairs were ordered removed for safety reasons.
“There is inadequate width in that particular corridor to meet the intent of the (building/fire) code,” Dewar said. “The hazard was created in a public corridor that created negative impact on the safety of the public.”
Desfosses said this might not be the end of the seating however.
“We’re trying to see if we can get some tables approved in a different location in the mall – and a different kind of table. We have our fingers crossed,” she said.
Desfosses said despite the removal of the seating, she has been impressed by the amount of customers at the downtown location.
“We are doing about four and five thousand transactions per week at the location,” she said. “That’s about 50 per cent higher than some new franchises in the south.”
She added that the company has actually added about 16 full and part-time staff since the mobile restaurant and the downtown location opened.
Desfosses promised her loyal customers that she is as anxious as they are to get the Old Airport Rd store up and running.
“Believe me, if we are ready to open up at 11:00 on the first night – then that’s what we are going to do,” she said.