Coronavirus leads Burger King, Tim Horton's parent to pay franchisees

Leading food brand company takes on challenges of the pandemic

In an open letter on Monday, CEO of Burger King, Popeye's and Tim Horton's parent company Restaurant Brands International Jose Cil said that the company is giving cash payments and rebates to its restaurant owners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We are one of the largest franchisors of restaurant brands in the world and we take our responsibility to ensure the financial health of our restaurant owners very seriously, particularly during difficult times," Cil said. "In many markets around the world, including North America, we are advancing cash payments and rebates to restaurant owners so that they have this much-needed cash when they need it the most—right now."

In North America, the total figure will be an estimated $70 million in cash advances.

The company will also give a special bonus in April to all of its corporate restaurant team members in North America to "recognize their tremendous service to guests and communities" and provide up to 14 days of paid sick leave for U.S. employees of Burger King and Popeye's and a $40 million support fund for Tim Horton's employees. The Toronto-based coffee and donut chain will have that fund fueled by Canadian dollars.

In addition, the company has temporarily converted to 100 percent variable rent for approximately 3,700 eligible Tim Hortons locations in Canada and Burger King locations in the U.S. and Canada and have deferred rent payments for up to 45 days.

WHAT DOES THE CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS PACKAGE MEAN FOR RESTAURANTS?

To ensure the safety of both its employees and customers, Cil said the company has "deployed stringent cleaning and hygiene standards at all restaurants" such as sanitizing high contact surfaces more frequently and making hand sanitizer available to everyone and is in the process of deploying 15,000 infrared thermometers to all Burger King, Tim Horton's and Popeye's locations.

The company has also increased home delivery availability and mobile pick up with its restaurants' apps. Curbside and front door take out will be offered to guests who can't access drive-thrus or who arrive on foot.

Looking to the future, Cil said the company will continue to listen to the input of its employees and customers when making coronavirus-related decisions going forward.

"There is undoubtedly more uncertainty and tough decisions ahead of us. And we will tackle them as a team, with a wide range of voices and perspectives that will make us stronger", he said.

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QSRRESTAURANT BRANDS INTERNATIONAL INC.55.11-0.06-0.11%

Restaurant Brand International has previously assisted healthcare workers and first responders in the fight against the coronavirus.

Burger King donated $1 million renminbi in China to the Red Cross to support frontline medical staff and has been providing free meal delivery to hospitals and to on-duty police officers. In Italy, the restaurant chain has donated meals to local hospitals and 8 tons of food to the Red Cross.

Tim Horton's has deployed coffee trucks throughout Canada to offer free coffee and donuts to health care workers and first responders at hospitals, health care centers and COVID-19 test facilities.

According to the letter, Restaurant Brands International ended 2019 with about $1.5 billion in cash and currently has approximately $2.5 billion in cash on hand.

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