Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s has secured an undisclosed amount of funding from Chinese tech company Tencent, according to AgFunder News. The company originally announced the news via a post on Weibo.
Tim Horton’s China unit will use the new funds to build up its digital assets and infrastructure as well as expand its number of locations in the Chinese market. Currently, it operates about 50 stores in that country and says the investment from Tencent will let the company hit its target number of 1,500 stores sooner than originally planned, though a specific time wasn’t named.
Tim Horton’s first entered the Chinese coffee market in February of 2019.
Digitizing the coffee market in China is a big business right now. Tim Horton’s faces competition from Luckin, which has always pursued a digital-first model that emphasizes mobile ordering, AI-powered self-service coffee terminals, and delivery. (Side note: Luckin is currently at the center of an accounting scandal that is raising questions about future growth.)
Starbucks is also a major competitor in China, having partnered with Alibaba’s food delivery platform Ele.me to grow its delivery footprint. Starbucks has also partnered with Alibaba’s Heme supermarkets to operate its own ghost kitchens, and launched its very first to-go-centric Express store in Beijing last year.
Tim Horton’s new investment funds come at a time when all these companies will need to double down on their tech investments to make the coffee experience as to-go-centric as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed things like contactless payment, delivery, and mobile orders into the center of future restaurant operations. Major chains that want to keep growing will need to spend more on these technologies in order to meet consumer demand for both convenience and safety, not only in China but in the rest of the world, too.