Roll up Tim Hortons’ (spill-proof) rim

At long last, the company unveils a cup lid that won’t drip hot coffee down your leg

by Alex Ballingall

Roll up the (spill-proof) rim

Photograph by Brandon Titaro

Coffee-stained pants, endless frustration tucking back a plastic tab that won’t stay in its designated groove—if you’re a Tim Hortons regular, you’re familiar with such tribulations. The cause, as discussed vehemently on dozens of Internet forums and Facebook groups, is the flat, flimsy lid used by Tim Hortons on their cups.

With an eye to curbing such criticism, Canada’s favourite doughnut shop has quietly unveiled a new lid with an “improved flip tab design.” First available in January, the company plans to have the new lids topping warm beverages in Canada and the U.S. by the end of the year. “We have gotten some comments from customers [saying] they were disappointed with the consistency of the flip tab,” says Tim Hortons’ manager of public affairs Alexandra Cygal. “We wanted to make sure the design is consistent.”

To the oblivious coffee guzzler, the new lids might not appear any different. They’re made from the same plastic material, are still relatively flat (unlike the domed lids at rivals like Starbucks and McDonald’s) and they’re still coloured that familiar chocolate brown. The most significant change lies in the dreaded flip tab, which has been redesigned to fit more snugly into the curved notch and be less prone to tearing. The new lids also appear to offer a tighter seal (eliminating most of those annoying leaks) and allow better stacking of cups one on top of the other.

Cygal says Tim Hortons began looking into a lid redesign last year, amidst the online exhortations of disgruntled customers. “I am so sick of the damn things leaking all over my console in my truck,” wrote one user on the Facebook group, Tim Hortons Lids Leak and Suck A–. When Maclean’s first wrote about the backlash last year, Louise Harpman, a New York City architect and professor who, along with her partner Scott Specht, has amassed a large collection of patented plastic cup lids, sided with the online detractors when shown one of the old Tim’s lids. “This is very much old news in the lid world,” she said, citing “inferior leakage containment and inferior mouth comfort.”

Cygal says the company landed on the new design after consulting with suppliers. It was their first lid change “in quite awhile,” Cygal adds. But even though the upgrade was a long time coming, it’s unlikely it was instigated out of fear of a wider customer backlash. The company says it sells two billion cups of coffee per year. Sales in 2011 jumped more than nine per cent, while the company’s revenues grew 21 per cent to $780 million.

Still, there is no doubt a nation of grateful hockey parents and office and construction workers are happy to see that Tim’s has finally got with the times when it comes to that great innovation: the modern, disposable coffee cup lid.




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Roll up Tim Hortons’ (spill-proof) rim

  1. Finally a positive article by!!

  2. Typical of the Idiots.  You can expect nothing more of this corporate entity.  Why didn’t they – since they were spending the megabucks anyway – design a lid of the same material as the cup so it could all be composted?!?!  Then wooden stir sticks.  They make so many mistakes it’s surprising they’re still in business.  Take not opening on Christmas: what, people don’t drink coffee on Christmas?  How many million dollars does it cost these yokels to stay closed on what could well be their busiest day of the years?  Just because you’re run by bankers doesn’t mean you need to keep banking hours.  That and their corporate packaged gray-slime process for making pastries in a megafactory, freezing the items and shipping them out to be microwaved.  And taking any franchisee who wants to bake them in house, fresh, old style and – “Classic” anyone? – to court to prevent it, instead of encouraging them.  All about RIM indeed, a la their days are numbered.  Someone will realize the opening and walk through.

    •  Really? Would you like to be the one to work on Christmas Day? They give everyone the day off so they can spend one holiday a year celebrating with their friends and family. How about going old school and making your own coffee for one day.

    • it’s Christmas dummy….stay home with your family…get a life and enjoy…go to church and be thankful for being allowed to exist…you can make better coffee at home anyways

    • Christmas is to be home / away with family and friends ,,,,,,duh!   what a remark to make
        buy a tin and make it at home …..

  3. i am bemused by the strength of macleans’ attack on poor little tim hortons.  i am no apologist for the company – i recently returned from an 18-month boycott of their product, following upon very poor customer service.  however – in my travels i have had to deal with so many crappy coffee lid designs – things that must have looked great on flip charts in a boardroom under a title like, “improved beverage delivery appliance”- all, it seems, based on the premise that people would rather suck their coffee than drink it.  Every one of these lids is more frustrating than the Tim’s lid – version 1 or version 2.  The lid is one thing that Tim’s is doing right.

  4. If you cared about the environment at least as much as about your pants, you’d take your own reusable takeout cup to the coffee shop. And if having coffee there, for goodness sake ask for a china mug! I get sick watching people sitting there, drinking out of throw-away cups.

  5. Lid much improved with the tab now (at least) clicking tight.  However, still spills in the cup holder when car accelerates or stops quickly.

    • As what was mentioned already, flip the lid down under (into the coffee) and it will not spill. I’ve done this for years with total success, I can’t figure out why other people haven’t! Do it!

      • Guess I gotta try that

    • That is why I always ask for a double cup. And I never through the double cup away. I use it at home to make myself more tea. :)

  6. The lids are still cheap crap.  The coffee is still inferior as well.  Why not try some fantastic coffee in a well designed and very good quality cup / lid from from McDonalds.  What? Not dedicated Canadian coffee shop customer?  I would be, but the terrible service, and lousy cup lids and no refills, has been more than I can stand.  We don’t go there for the coffee, just for the socializing because THERE is where we’re all accustomed to meeting together. 

  7. They need lids like Starbucks or McDonald’s.  Also sleeves like Starbucks.  I hate getting coffee or anything there as the lids are not good and you always have to ask for a second cup or burn your hand off carrying it.  

  8. If only the clerks at the coffee shops would put the lid on the coffee cup 180 degrees opposite the seam in the paper cup there would be fewer folks with coffee on their shirt or pants.

    • This is one of the first things I tell new staff!

    • Yeah my mom is always annoyed at the seam being in the front and wishes they would focus on putting the lid with the cup seam to the back. But I know they are in a hurry. 1/4 of the time the staff gets my order wrong..

  9. Tuck the tab into the cup not outside and it won’t spill.

  10. Forget the flip back lid, they are still stupid,  Cappiccino lids, that is what is needed. The hole is already there and opened, it is slightly raised so you do not have the possible cuts on the lips . It seems Tim Hortons makes a deliberate effort to not give the people what they need or want. The only improvement on those flip back lids is to put them in the garbage. 

    • Just an added thought, Tim’s also needs to change a cup to be specifically for tea that is made from the extreemly hot water. I don’t mind two cups to be able to hold the cup of tea but it seems to me a styrofoam cup would be cheaper for them int he long run instead of two paper cups?

      • But Styrofoam is not environment friendly.

    • Yeah with Timmies I always curl the sharp tips because they scratch my mouth and I don’t like that.

  11. I get so tired of hearing about the fast food industrry. Companies like Mcdonald’s are aways in the news for good reasons and bad.

  12. However the people who work at Tim Horton’s have given me cups with tea dripping down the sides. These lids are only as good as the customer service. if you have good customer service then this is good.

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