Restaurant Brands International Inc., the parent company to Tim Hortons, made major changes to its leadership team on Wednesday amid a continuing push to expand its stable of fast food brands globally.
The changes will see Daniel Schwartz, 38, who has held the role of CEO since the genesis of RBI — a conglomerate that controls Tims, Burger King and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen — become executive chairman, while Burger King president Jose Cil takes over as chief executive.
“If we get happy guests and happy franchisees, we are able to grow and grow exponentially,” Cil said in an interview Wednesday. “That’s the formula, that’s the focus.”
In a call to investors Wednesday, Schwartz insisted he will remain hands-on at RBI, which he has been helping to build since his early 30s.
“Titles aside, I’m going to be way more active than a typical chair,” Schwartz said, assuring investors that he and his partners at 3G Capital, all major shareholders in RBI, had no plans “to sell any of our equity.”
Schwartz, who helped Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital merge Tims and Burger King into RBI in 2014 after serving as CEO of Burger King, will also become co-chairman of RBI’s board along with assuming other responsibilities as a partner with 3G.
“I’m not going to be the CEO of another company.”
The announcement of the executive shuffle came along with the release of preliminary fourth-quarter results that signalled significant progress in the company’s efforts to turn around Tims, which has been beset by disputes with franchisees and slowing sales growth.
In those preliminary results, RBI reported that Tim Hortons’ same store sales grew 1.9 per cent globally and 2.2 per cent in Canada in the fourth quarter — its best results in two years, according CIBC analysts.
As further proof of its “confidence in the long-term outlook,” RBI’s board also announced it would increase its quarterly dividend to 50 cents.
In a research note Wednesday, the CIBC analysts said the sales figures exceeded expectations, proving that tweaks to Tim Hortons’ menu, such as all-day breakfast, along with a new back-to-roots marketing strategy and better franchisee relations are “undoubtedly making an impact.”
“We had not specifically expected a management change,” the analysts wrote. “But the promotion of Jose Cil acknowledges an excellent performance at Burger King…. We do not believe these moves reflect any change in strategy.”
Cil brings an expertise in franchise relations — a department that Tim Hortons specifically has struggled with in recent years, after a public battle with a group of discontented store owners. But Schwartz said the troubles were over, pointing to a fourth-quarter franchisee conference as one of several Tim Hortons efforts to mend relationships.
“Our relations with our franchisees are as good as they’ve been,” Schwartz said.
(The Great White North Franchisee Association, which says it represents angered franchisees, declined to comment on Wednesday.)
The shakeup at the helm of RBI is only meant to better reflect the day-to-day realities, with Schwartz focused on strategy and Cil focused on expanding RBI’s brands globally, Schwartz said.
“I’m going to be a very active — very active — board member,” he said. “Jose’s smiling as I’m saying this.”