Ontario recently raised its minimum wage to $14/hr, and the impact this had on businesses both large and small became a talking point du jour. Debate crystallized, due to selective journalism, around a single business: Tim Hortons. A handful of franchise owners announced to their staff that, in response to the increase, certain perquisites would be cancelled, and a thousand online scolds were unleashed.
A common question posed by fans of the higher minimum wage, angry that their victory had been undermined by greedy capitalism, was thus: ‘Why can’t Tim Hortons, a billion-dollar franchise, just raise their wages a little, be happy for their employees, and not be so concerned about profits?” After all, as many photo-ops and profiles would show, there are plenty of small coffee shops that happily pay their employees a ‘living wage’.
The first Tim Hortons restaurant opened in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1964. In the 50 years since, it has expanded to over 4600 locations across the globe and employs 100,000 people. It achieved this growth because it focuses on profit. Were it not for a desire for profit, had the franchise been content to focus its energies solely on coffee and the wages of its handful of employees, Tim Hortons would have remained in its single Hamilton location serving coffee for the past 50 years, not become the empire it is today, and there would be 100,000 fewer jobs available for people who need them.
Any job is better than no job to the person who chooses to work that job. Otherwise they would quit. I’m sorry, but it’s true. 100,000 jobs are better than 0 jobs.
To criticize a large, successful business for not adhering to the business model of a smaller, less successful business is to wilfully ignore what made the former so successful in the first place. For all the wonderfully dark, ethically sourced, french-pressed coffee that small-business Ontario cafes produce, and for all the living wages they nobly pay their half-dozen staff, by focusing on profit and greed Tim Hortons has done more for the common good of the world than a single, principled coffee shop owner could ever hope. They should be celebrated for this achievement.