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Tim Hortons is testing pizza, amid expansion of dinner options

Tim Hortons is testing out flatbread pizza at select locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Tim Hortons is testing out flatbread pizza at select locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Tim Hortons is getting into the pizza game.

The iconic coffee and doughnut chain is testing out flatbread pizzas at 20 locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), a move that comes as the company looks to expand its market share in the lunch and dinner categories.

The flatbread pizzas are listed as a limited time offer and come in a variety of flavours, including pepperoni, cheese, chicken parmesan and sausage and jalapeño. The cheese flatbread pizza sells for $6.99, while the other flavours cost $7.99.

"On any given day, there are Tim Hortons restaurants across Canada running test markets to trial new ideas and menu items that we think our guests will love," Tim Hortons communications director Michael Oliveira said in an emailed statement, adding that it's "early days" for the rollout of flatbread pizzas.

Tim Hortons is in the midst of a strategy that includes expanding into the later lunch and dinner categories, known in the fast food industry as the "P.M. daypart." The category is the fastest growing one in the fast food industry in Canada, according to Tim Hortons, representing an $8.5 billion market that is growing at an annual rate of 5 per cent. The chain says its market share in the category is just 4 per cent.

'We're just getting started'

Jose Cil, chief executive of Tim Hortons' parent company Restaurant Brands International, said on a recent quarterly conference call with analysts that the company sees "a big opportunity" in the P.M. daypart, given the ubiquity of the Tim Hortons brand, value-for-money perceptions among Canadians and the strength in its existing lunch offering.

"We do believe this is a massive opportunity to shift in how we think about the menu," Cil said, adding that the company has brought in "culinary expertise" in the last 18 months that specialize in developing "crave-able products."

"The key will be our ability to prioritize, our ability to execute well. We're looking forward to sharing more over time, but we have big aspirations for our lunch and dinner business, and we're just getting started."

Tim Hortons product launches are typically under development for several months in the company's test kitchen before they are rolled out to a select number of locations for a market test. The company then assesses the rollout, customer feedback and whether there are any operational adjustments that need to be made. It will then decide whether the product should be rolled out nationwide.

Tim Hortons' chief marketing officer Hope Bagozzi said in a previous interview with Yahoo Finance Canada that the company takes a "long and thoughtful approach" to new product launches, conducting market research to understand what will resonate with the loyal customer of the chain.

"Anything new we'll take a bit more time with it and really make sure it has longevity," she said.

"Is it the right opportunity? Will it make sense for guests? ...What flavours would make sense? Everything is really thought out carefully before we go into the final recipe creation. Anything we do going forward, we are going to take that kind of rigor and care and make sure we get it right."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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