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Tims’ upscale cafe luring millennials with nitro brews, Instagrammable doughnuts

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian | posted Monday, Jul 29th, 2019

Julia Hemphill is just the kind of customer that Tim Hortons would love to see more of: a professional, urban millennial.

But she admits she’s not one to go out of her way to visit the chain, noting her coffee purchases are largely driven by convenience: “If I pass a Tim Hortons, I pass a Tim Hortons. If there’s a lineup I won’t go there. If there isn’t, I will.”

Still, the 39-year-old and her three companions joined throngs of curious customers who lined up at the brand’s much-touted “innovation cafe” this week to sample a line of specialty drinks and doughnuts more typically seen at higher-end eateries.

Hemphill ordered the nitro coffee – “It’s actually shockingly good,” she says – and approved of the modern decor of faux-marble tabletops, walnut wood accents and velvet bench seating.

“It had kind of stagnated before. It’s nice to see it new,” says Hemphill.

But while she would return for the menu, the coffee shop is not likely to become her hangout spot.

Hemphill, at the older end of the millennial cohort, says she’s more likely to meet friends for a cocktail than a coffee, which she generally brings back to her desk: “Coffee is work.”

Such ambivalence is the reason Tims and many other quick-service restaurants are rethinking how to reach millennial and Gen Z diners, say experts who point to similarly minded overhauls at McDonald’s, Boston Pizza and Panera Bread.

The coffee chain’s experiment is billed as “a modern interpretation of the Tim Hortons brand.” Its 12 “Dream Donut” flavours include maple bacon, blueberry hibiscus, hazelnut butter cream and a brown butter and sea salt variety, each selling for $1.99 – roughly double the cost of regular flavours.

Tims’ global marketing chief acknowledges the store’s clean design and Instagram-ready treats are tailored to young, urban professionals: “They look for a store like this, they look for a design like this,” says Axel Schwan.

However, he insists the rest of the chain’s tried-and-true drip coffee and Timbits are not going anywhere: “Our target group is Canada.”

The specialty treats and premium sandwiches are only available at the King Street store, as are seven different brewing methods that include single-origin pour overs and cold brews. If they’re a hit with customers, they could be rolled out to other restaurants, says Schwan.

The tactic also allows Tim Hortons to test how far they can stretch a brand known for no-frills products with prices to match.

The quick-service market in general has been shifting upscale for a while now, leaving room for Tims to test more expensive items at prices that can still be considered relatively low, says food service industry expert Vince Sgabellone.

“Starbucks (is) already arguably one of the more expensive beverage locations and then they came out with their ‘reserve’ brand which is even more expensive – I had a $9 coffee there not too long ago,” says Sgabellone, of the NPD Group.

“There’s room for that premiumization. People are willing to spend a little more in quick service as long as they get the quality and the service that they expect with the premium pricing.”

Tims’ “innovation cafe” is clearly not about pleasing regular customers, but about luring people who otherwise don’t go to a traditional Tim Hortons, he adds.

Much like the urban-focused McCafe from McDonald’s, the Tim Hortons experiment edges the brand towards the “fast casual” tier, in which premium-quality food comes with fast-food service and better value, says Sgabellone.

This segment of the market is growing at about eight per cent, whereas quick-service restaurants as a whole are only growing at about two-to-three per cent, Sgabellone says.

Brand expert Susan Weaver adds that customers are increasingly “trading down” from full service, mid-tier eateries to these quick-service outlets as they seek better value for their dollar.

She points to upscale food courts that have reinvented mall food, as well as the McCafes, which each feature unique menus and artisan sandwiches.

Millennials are an especially sought-after market because of their size, their larger disposable income, tendency to eat out more and desire for convenience, says Weaver, managing director of Pearl Strategy & Innovation Design Inc.

But they are fickle, she adds.

This younger group wants customizable drinks, in-store technology such as charging stations, eco-friendly packaging and the ability to see their food being assembled and their drinks being made – all features of the new Tim Hortons’ venture.

The problem for Tim Hortons, she argues, is that it’s beloved by Boomers and regarded as “your parents’ brand.”

And the fact that “Tim Hortons makes probably 80 per cent of their profits from hot coffee and millennials do not drink that,” says Weaver, whose Oakville, Ont., company has worked with Tim Hortons on their lunch menu in the past.

“We’ve done a lot of work for Tim Hortons and we always said to them: ‘You might have to rebrand if you want to get to (millennials).”‘

She mused on the possibility that’s the future of Tims’ innovation cafe, suggesting the brand should expand the concept as a separate offering for millennials in every big urban city.

Sgabellone also wouldn’t be surprised if the experiment evolves into “a small niche sub-brand of theirs.”

“They’re stating right off the front it’s a one-off, but like with any brand, if it’s a success they’re going to make it a two-off and a six-off and they’ll be opening more.”

Italian police say teen held in officer’s death ‘illegally blindfolded’

Frances D'Emilio, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jul 29th, 2019

An American teenager was “illegally blindfolded” before his interrogation as a suspect in a newlywed police officer’s slaying in Rome, a Carabinieri commander said Sunday after a photo circulated of the young tourist with his head bowed and handcuffed behind his back.

Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, was blindfolded “for a very few minutes, four or five” on Friday just before he was questioned about the fatal stabbing of Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega, Provincial Cmdr. Francesco Gargaro told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Natale-Hjorth and another suspect from California, 19-year-old Finnegan Lee Elder, remained jailed while Italians lined up outside a church to pay respects to Cerciello Rega, 35, who had returned to duty from his wedding and honeymoon just says before he was killed.

Cerciello Rega was stabbed eight times on a street close to the teens’ upscale hotel in Rome. Investigators allege Elder knifed the policeman while Cerciello Rega and a partner were in plainclothes while looking into an alleged drug deal gone wrong that allegedly involved the teens.

Natale-Hjorth is accused of punching the other officer, who wasn’t seriously hurt. Police said Saturday that both Americans confessed to the respective roles in Cerciello Rega’s death. Under Italian law, anyone who participated in a slaying can face murder charges.

Italian newspapers published a photo of Natale-Hjorth with what appears to be a scarf covering his eyes and with his arms handcuffed behind his back in a room at a police station. The paramilitary Carabinieri police force and prosecutors are investigating.

Blindfolding of a suspect “is illegal. It’s not allowed,” Gargaro said. The officer who put the blindfold on committed a “mistake” but did so to prevent Natale-Hjorth from seeing documents related to the investigation, the commander said.

Natale-Hjorth had been brought in handcuffs to the stationhouse from his hotel, Gargaro said. He was interrogated by police and prosecutors without a lawyer there since he hadn’t been formally detained as a suspect and Italian law doesn’t allow an attorney’s presence at that stage, the commander said.

The officer was transferred to a different unit, Gargaro said. The Carabinieri were also investigating who took the photo and how it was leaked. Lawyers for the two Americans were not immediately available for comment.

With the slain officer being widely mourned in Italy as a hero, some prominent Italians worried that the publication of the photo might ultimately aid the defence and thwart justice.

Centre-right lawmaker Mariastella Gelmini warned against “exploiting” the incident to the detriment of the prosecution.

For others, the photo evoked the beating death of a young Roman who was jailed in a drug investigation. Stefano Cucchi was severely beaten after his arrest and died several days later. After his family fought to find out the truth, several Carabinieri were investigated for the beating and coverup of responsibility.

His sister, Ilaria Cucchi, called the photo of the blindfolded Natale-Hjorth “terrible.”

“Certain things must not happen whatever the accusation is,” she said.

U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joins group seeking cheaper insulin in Canada

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jul 29th, 2019

It’s an “embarrassment” that Americans have to travel to Canada in order to buy cheaper medication, said U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Ontario on Sunday.

The Vermont senator travelled to Windsor, Ont., with a group of American diabetics to purchase insulin at a lower cost.

“We love our Canadian neighbours and we thank them so much, but we shouldn’t have to come to Canada,” Sanders told reporters outside of a pharmacy.

Typically, a vial of insulin Type 1 diabetics need to regulate their blood sugar costs about US$340 in the United States, roughly 10 times the price in Canada.

Sanders posted on Twitter this weekend that the high cost for insulin has put the lives of American diabetics at risk.

He has long targeted pharmaceutical companies for the cost of prescription drugs, and he made a similar medication trip to Canada in 1999.

“As Americans, what we have got to ask ourselves is how come the same exact medicine, in this case insulin, is sold here in Canada for one tenth of the price that it is sold in the United States?” said Sanders.

Multiple trips from Americans headed to Canada for cheaper insulin has raised concerns about its supply in Canada, despite insulin tourism being relatively small scale.

Late last month, a group of Type 1 diabetics from Minnesota crossed the border to buy insulin in London, Ont.

A recent letter from 15 groups representing Canadian patients, health professionals, hospitals, and pharmacists urges the federal government to safeguard the Canadian drug supply.

A spokeswoman for the federal health minister said earlier this month that the government is monitoring the situation.

Current rules allow Americans to take home a maximum three-month personal supply of medicines bought in Canada, and four states have passed legislation allowing for wholesale or individual imports of medications.

Because insulin is non-prescription in Canada, there is no tracking mechanism of how much might be heading south.

Former MPP David Caplan dead at 54

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 26th, 2019

Former Ontario cabinet minister David Caplan has died at the age of 54.

Caplan was a Liberal MPP from 1997 to 2011, first in the riding of Oriole and then Don Valley East.

He was appointed to cabinet as infrastructure minister in 2003 and then health minister in 2007.

In 2009, he resigned as health minister ahead of an auditor general’s special report into spending at eHealth Ontario. He decided not to run for re-election in the 2011 provincial election.

Before his foray in provincial politics, Caplan was a school board trustee in the Don Valley area.

Last year he ran in the municipal election in Ward 16 – Don Valley East but lost to long-time city councillor and current deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

Premier Doug Ford tweeted out his condolences to Caplan’s family.

“I’m sad to learn that David Caplan passed away. Too young. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. I’m grateful to David for his years of service to our province and his community,” the tweet read.

Former premier Kathleen Wynne called Caplan a friend and colleague.

“I am shocked and saddened to learn of David Caplan’s death. He was a friend and a colleague. Love and condolences to David’s family,” she tweeted.

No further details have been released.

RCMP investigating photo of B.C. murder suspect’s alleged Nazi paraphernalia

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jul 26th, 2019

A murder suspect who allegedly sent photographs of a swastika armband and a Hitler Youth knife to an online friend was not a Nazi sympathizer, but he did think the memorabilia was “cool,” says his father.

RCMP are investigating the photographs, which also show Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, in military fatigues, holding an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.

The man is a suspect along with Kam McLeod, 19, in three murders in British Columbia.

Alan Schmegelsky said Thursday that his son took him to an army surplus store about eight months ago in his small Vancouver Island hometown of Port Alberni, B.C., where the teen was excited about the Nazi artifacts.

“I was disgusted and dragged him out,” Schmegelsky said. “My grandparents fled the Ukraine with three small children during the Second World War.”

The teens are charged with second-degree murder in the death of one man and are suspects in the fatal shootings of a young couple. On Thursday, the manhunt was focused on the thick and boggy forests of northeastern Manitoba.

Despite his son’s fascination with the collectibles, Schmegelsky said he didn’t believe his son identified as a neo-Nazi.

“He thought he was Russian. Germans are their enemies,” he said.

The father, who is estranged from the teen’s mother, explained that he didn’t see his son between the ages of eight and 16, and during that time the boy came under the mistaken belief that he had Russian heritage.

He enjoys watching Russian rap videos, where the artists “wear Adidas and drink vodka,” Schmegelsky said, adding his son is a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.

“I argued with him about that, in a friendly manner,” the father said. “He liked strong speakers.”

Schmegelsky said it was possible his son went back to the store later to buy the memorabilia, but it’s also possible he took a photo in the store or that it’s staged.

The army surplus store, called Harreson’s Military Store, has since closed and the former owner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alfred Bergkvist, owner of “A” Company Military Surplus in nearby Coombs, said he purchased all of Harreson’s merchandise, including some Nazi material, when it closed.

Bergkvist said he didn’t recognize the red Nazi armband in the photograph but his store also stocked Hitler Youth knives identical to the one in the picture.

He recalled that two boys came into his store about three weeks ago and bought one of the replica knives that are inscribed with the German words for “blood and honour.”

“They were really excited about it,” he said, adding he didn’t know whether the pair were Schmegelsky and McLeod and he doesn’t have security cameras.

Schmegelsky allegedly sent the photos to a user of the video-game network Steam. The two suspects most recently logged onto their accounts 13 days ago, about the time they told family they were leaving Port Alberni in search of work.

Schmegelsky’s account shows he frequently played a shooting game called Russia Battlegrounds, and both young men’s Facebook pages were connected to an account called Illusive Gaming, which has a modified Soviet flag as its icon.

Herb Loomba, owner of the Redford Motel in Port Alberni, said the elder Schmegelsky stayed there about once a month while visiting his son, and he last saw the teen with his dad on his graduation day, wearing a nice suit.

Loomba said the news has disturbed everyone in the small, close-knit community.

“Anything happens, it feels like it’s happening in your own home,” he said.

Officers from the western provinces and Ontario were in the Gillam area of northern Manitoba to search for the teenagers on Thursday.

RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said there were two confirmed sightings of the teens before an SUV police believe they had used to drive to Gillam was found burned out on Monday.

“There have been no stolen vehicles in that area,” she said. “At this point in the investigation, we believe they are still in the area.”

The terrain is unforgiving, Courchaine said.

“There’s lots of dense bush, forest, swampy area, so it is very challenging,” she said.

RCMP have been asking people not to approach Schmegelsky and McLeod if they see them and to call police instead.

More than 80 tips had come in over the last 40 hours alone, Courchaine said.

To the north, the mayor of Churchill – a community accessible only by rail, sea and air – warned residents to be on the lookout.

“We should all remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity directly to the RCMP,” Mike Spence said in a statement.

Police charged the two young men Wednesday in the death of University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck, whose body was found July 19 near their burned-out truck in northwestern B.C.

Patrick Martone, a professor in UBC’s botany department, said in a statement that he was lucky to know Dyck, whose gruff exterior belied a natural curiosity and enthusiasm.

“His passion for learning about bizarre and beautiful organisms that few people ever get to see inspired our students to feel that same passion and awe,” Martone said.

Dyck began working for the university as a sessional lecturer in 2003 and completed his PhD the next year. His behind-the-scenes efforts in the department, his field collections and his work with students in the classroom make him irreplaceable, said Matrone.

“Mostly, I will miss Len’s laugh, which often followed some wry comment. It makes me tear up thinking that I won’t get to hear that again,” he said.

“He held his cards close to his chest, but as soon as you realized how much passion he had for his work, he was so much fun and a joy to be around. It was obvious that he was doing what he loved. He was a really special man.”

The bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were found four days earlier along a highway more than 450 kilometres from where Dyck was discovered.

CannTrust fires CEO, demands chair resign amid unlicensed pot growing investigation

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jul 26th, 2019

CannTrust Holdings Inc. has fired its CEO and asked its chairman to resign after the board discovered new information during an internal investigation into alleged unlicensed pot growing by the cannabis producer.

The company’s board of directors decided to “terminate with cause” chief executive Peter Aceto, the company said in a statement released after markets closed Thursday.

The move comes after several media reports cited internal documents that suggest Paul and Aceto were aware of pot cultivation in rooms at a Pelham, Ont., facility without government approval months before Health Canada discovered the illicit activity.

The board also demanded company chair Eric Paul resign, which he did. It added that it is preparing to make additional operational changes in the following days and weeks.

The shakeup comes as the board’s special committee uncovered new information during its ongoing investigation into the company’s failure to comply with Health Canada regulations.

Health Canada discovered during an unannounced inspection in June that the pot firm was growing cannabis in several rooms before securing appropriate licenses. The agency is currently investigating CannTrust.

The board has appointed the special committee’s chair Robert Marcovitch as interim CEO and he will no longer be a member of the committee.

“Our first priority is to complete the remaining items of our investigation and bring the company’s operations into full regulatory compliance,” Marcovitch said in a statement.

The role of special committee chair will be assumed by Mark Dawber.

CannTrust’s stock has fallen more than 40 percent since early July when it disclosed Health Canada’s findings that the company had grown cannabis in several rooms. The company said the unlicensed pot growing in question took place between October 2018 and March 2019, before the licenses were issued for these five rooms in April 2019.

The regulator has put on hold 5,200 kilograms of CannTrust’s inventory, including some samples that are undergoing testing, and the licensed producer voluntarily put on hold 7,500 kilograms of products linked to the unlicensed rooms.

Health Canada has said that the company provided false and misleading information to its inspectors. Former CannTrust employee Nick Lalonde has said he was asked to put up fake walls and obscure unlicensed plants in photos that were submitted to federal regulators.

There are a number of enforcement tools Health Canada can use under the Cannabis Act, which include the suspension or cancellation of a federal license or the issuance of administrative monetary penalties up to $1 million.

Some CannTrust product that originated from the unlicensed rooms had been sold, including to various government retailers in Canada and to its Danish joint venture partner Stenocare, which has quarantined and blocked from sale five batches of the product until regulators complete their probe.

As well, cultivation, sales and exporting of cannabis unless authorized under the Act are criminal activities, the penalties for which range from fines to imprisonment for up to 14 years in prison.

4 missing persons cases from 1990s being investigated as homicides: OPP

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 26th, 2019

Provincial police say they are now investigating the disappearance of four seniors in the 1990s as homicides.

The seniors went missing in the Muskoka area in the 1990s and foul play was suspected in each case. The only connection they all had was where they lived.

All four of them lived at properties advertised as “retirement properties” and were used mostly by elderly people who were estranged from their families or couldn’t take care of themselves.

They were called Fern Glen Manor and Cedar Pines Christian Retirement Home, along with a third property referred to as the “farm property.”

Joan Dorothy Lawrence, 77, disappeared in 1998 and police said at the time that they believe she was murdered.

She had rented an eight by 10 foot wooden shed on the “farm property” for $600 a month. Lawrence lived there for two years until she moved into a broken down van. Two months later she vanished and OPP believe she was killed near the van.

John Semple, 81, John Crofts, 72, and Ralph Grant, 73, all vanished from 1997 to 1999 and lived in the properties at the time of their disappearance. Their remains have never been found.

Police have never named suspects in the investigations. The three properties were fun by four siblings: Kathrine, David, Paul, and Walter Laan. The OPP said these individuals never cooperated with police and by the mid-2000s, the properties were sold.

Det. Insp. Rob Matthews was working for the OPP in the Muskoka region at the time of the disappearances when he began investigating a fraud case.

Matthews said he first came in contact with John Crofts in 1997 at one of the properties during a fraud investigation. He said he had significant concerns about the level of care the residents were receiving.

He had also spoken with previous residents of the retirement properties who said they only left by “escaping.”

The OPP has identified 46 past residents who lived in one or more of the properties.

During the operations of these homes, 16 people died with 12 being reported to the authorities, the four remaining deaths are the four missing individuals.

“We know the four missing people are not alive … Someone out there has information,” Matthews said.

He wouldn’t say that the Laan family are “persons of interest” in the investigation, but said they are “of interest” to the OPP.

Police are urging any former residents or employees who have not come forward to contact police and are hoping the new information about the properties will tap into additional sources of information they haven’t had access to before.

There is still a $50,000 reward for information about the disappearance and death of each of the victims.

Kawhi Gives Toronto a Long Awaited Goodbye

Riley Glenn | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

“Enjoy this moment, and have fun with it. A-HA. HA. HA. HA.

Those were seemingly the last words Kawhi Leonard had for the people of Toronto, delivered to the crowd of millions who gathered for Toronto’s first championship parade in 26 years. This was of course, a play on his now infamous laugh from his introduction press conference with the Toronto Raptors.

It’s been just over a month since the Raptors championship parade and already so much has changed. The most prominent of these changes being that Kawhi Leonard is no longer a member of the team, after signing a 3 year contract worth over $100 million dollars with the Los Angeles Clippers. Many fans didn’t hold this decision against Kawhi. From the moment he arrived in Toronto, Kawhi made it clear he wanted to play in Los Angeles to be close to his family in San Diego. He was considered by basketball fans and media members alike as a 1-year “rental”, with the sole purpose of bringing a championship to Toronto.

And that’s exactly what he did. And just like the media prophesied, he left after his lone season in the north. The final thing Toronto fans wanted from Kawhi was small in scale, especially when compared to winning an NBA championship: a thank you.

A thank you to the city, the country, the fans who lined up for 30 hours, just to stand outside the arena and watch his team play. The fans who embraced him, regardless of the fact that the cost of bringing Kawhi to Toronto was Demar Derozan, the man who was the face of the franchise for nearly a decade. The fans who offered free meals, condos, and even a Kawhactus to him, in the hope that he would learn to love Toronto like home.

After a month of silence, he finally gave his thank you.

During his introductory press conference with the Los Angeles Clippers, his new team, Kawhi took a moment to address the support he received in Toronto. He took a moment to thank the fans both in Toronto and across Canada, the Raptors organization, the doctors in Toronto who delivered his son (See you on Canada’s national team in 20 years Kawhi jr.), and finally, he thanked all the restaurants who offered him free food during the playoffs.

Now the Raptors turn a new page in their history, one without Kawhi Leonard. Luckily, we’ll always have the 2019 NBA Championship to remember him by.

So thank you, Kawhi.

And you’re welcome.

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