Planning Protest, Tim Hortons Zees ‘Will Not Be Intimidated’
A group of Tim Hortons franchisees in Canada plan to gather June 20 at the head office of parent company Restaurant Brands International to protest RBI’s termination of franchisee Mark Kuziora, the named plaintiff in GWNFA’s lawsuit against the brand that seeks more than $500 million in damages.
The letter, dated June 5 from the Great White North Franchisee Association and calling for the protest on June 20, says, “We invite everyone who is interested in protesting this gross mistreatment of a franchisee who stood up for all of us and is now being punished for signing a class action claim that any one of a number of us could have signed. This is about more than Mark; this is about the right to disagree and challenge RBI by any of us.” Headquartered in Oakville, Tim Hortons plans to move to downtown Toronto later this year.
“Mark did not break the law; he signed a document that many of you wanted us to pursue,” the letter continued. “This is also about intimidation. We will not be intimidated. We hope that you are as concerned as we are about the right to say that we disagree and not have to worry that we will be threatened if we do so. It is also about the right to know what is true.”
The letter closes, referring to Kuziora: “He stood up for all of us and it is our turn to stand up for him…And please, if you care about your right to freedom of speech and if you care enough to defend someone who put his business on the line to protect you, attend the demonstration. Let RBI know that you will not be intimidated.”
In April, franchisee Mark Kuziora filed suit in Ontario Superior Court against a subsidiary of Restaurant Brands International, claiming the franchisor refused "in bad faith" to renew a license for one of his stores. “The actions of the defendant were callous, wanton and in total disregard of the rights of the plaintiff,” says the lawsuit. He owns two Tim Hortons locations in Toronto; the lease on one expires August 31.
In March, the franchisor told Kuziora his lease would not be renewed, despite earlier assertions when he agreed to undertake renovations, according to the lawsuit.
Kuziora is a member of the GWNFA, a group of franchisees that RBI calls “rogue,” and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking class-action status filed by the GWNFA alleging improper use of money from a national advertising fund, among other things. When it was filed in June 2017, RBI said in a statement, “We vehemently disagree with and deny all the allegations,” and called the lawsuit “very disappointing.”
According to The Canadian Press in late May, Tim Hortons said in an email that Kuziora doesn’t have any renewal rights under the license agreement for the restaurant. “We regularly onboard new restaurant owners and transition restaurants as part of our normal course of business activity,” said its statement.
The Globe & Mail quoted a Tim Hortons Canada exec saying Kuziora’s restaurant has “a documented history of problems….including food-safety violations and not meeting a number of other Tim Hortons operating standards.”
Kuziora shot back in a statement, calling those allegations “false” and “materially different from the reasons previously stated for the non-renewal of my license,” according to the GWNFA.
The June 5 letter from GWNFA said RBI has stated that Kuziora is being removed because of poor performance. “We know that is not true,” it said.