The Elephant in the Restaurant: Remembrance Day at Tim Hortons

As promised here, I went to my local Tim’s downtown in Halifax just before 11 am today. I wanted to see if the staff were allowed their 3 minutes of not working from 10.59 to 11.02 as required by NS Labour Standards for anyone working on Remembrance Day.

There was brisk business; at least 50 younger people walked in for take out coffee in the 10 minutes before 11 am, as a dozen cars snaked through the parking lot to the takeout window.

10.59: the nine servers were very busy filling orders for coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
11.00: from a tinny smart phone came about 10 bars of the Last Post, then it petered out. Servers still rushing around, bagging Timbits, toasting bagels and giving change etc.
11.01: I approached the manager at the counter and asked her why she didn’t stop service for the requisite three minutes? She stared at me and said, “We didn’t notice the time.” Is she using the ”royal we”? Come on – it’s the only day of the year which imposes any halt to service (and profits) at all.

Today at Tim’s: veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members get free coffee (credit: Judy Haiven)

Generally in restaurants, and at Tim’s, staff don’t get coffee breaks —

As we spoke, a staff person walked behind her juggling two cheese sandwiches to the toaster oven. Suddenly it was 11.02, and I noticed two servers by the drive thru window standing at attention for 10 seconds. I wasn’t sure why, so I asked the manager if she could give the staff the requisite three minutes starting now.

She looked at me with suspicion and barely shook her head – that was a “no.” Come on – I thought — it’s the only day of the year which imposes any halt to service (and profits) at all.

Personally, I don’t care if the staff marks Remembrance Day – but surely they deserve 3 minutes of down-time. That’s law after all. In NS, according to Labour Standards, there are no mandated coffee breaks, only an unpaid “rest/eating break” after an employee has worked five consecutive hours. Usually that’s true of the restaurant industry too.

And, in case you missed my last blog here, in Nova Scotia there is no premium pay (such as time and a half) for working on Remembrance Day. Instead an employee is supposed to get another day off with pay – but only if the employee has worked for 15 of the last 30 days. Typically, employers prefer to bring in staff who have worked less than 15 days so they don’t claim the extra day off with pay.

Canadian soldier enjoys his double-double and donut at Tim Hortons, Kandahar airfield 2009 (credit: Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

The elephant in the restaurant? Tim Hortons has made millions and millions from war. And from our troops going to war. Yep. Over the restaurant’s five years in Afghanistan (2006-2011) Tim Hortons generated $7.1 million in gross profit.

But back here in Canada, there are rarely coffee breaks, no chairs or stools to sit on behind the counter, no down-time on Remembrance Day.

Remember that the next time you drink a double-double.

Featured image credit: Is There An Elephant In The Room? Name It And Tame It (credit:

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