Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce dies

He helped turn the coffee and doughnut chain into a Canadian icon.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ronald Joyce, who helped turn Tim Hortons into a Canadian cultural icon and the country’s most dominant restaurant chain, has died at 88.

Joyce passed on Thursday at his home in Burlington, Ontario, with his family by his side, according to a statement from the Joyce family.

“My father had a big vision and a big heart,” Steven Joyce, Ron’s son, said in a statement. “Through hard work, determination and drive, he built one of the most successful restaurant chains in Canada. In his journey with Tim Hortons, he traveled all over the country and considered himself Canadian above all else. He never forgot his humble beginnings, with The Joyce Family Foundation donating extensively to support those who are less fortunate, especially children and youth. He lived large and enjoyed the great journey of life.

“He will be greatly missed.”

Joyce was born in Nova Scotia in 1930. He was in the Navy and spent time as a police officer before he invested in a doughnut shop in Hamilton, Ontario, opened by professional hockey player Tim Horton, in 1964.

Joyce purchased his partner’s share of the business following Horton’s death in an auto accident in 1974.

Over the subsequent years, Tim Hortons would grow to become the country’s biggest chain, giving it a presence akin to McDonald’s in the United States.

Hortons would add the ultrapopular Timbits doughnut bites to its menu and expand into lunch and other offerings over the years. It has become virtually synonymous with Canadian culture.

The company grew to 1,900 locations by 1996, when Joyce sold Tim Hortons to Wendy’s for more than CA$600 million in cash and stock. Wendy’s spun off Tim Hortons in an IPO a decade later.

Tims has since merged with Burger King to form Restaurant Brands International and operates more than 4,800 locations, the vast majority of which are in Canada.

After selling the chain, Joyce focused on his philanthropical efforts, forming the Joyce Family Foundation.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Why MOD Pizza is not out of the woods yet

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual pizza chain was sold last week to Elite Restaurant Group. But few who’ve seen the finances believe the company can avoid closing large numbers of stores.


Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.


Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.


More from our partners