Tim Hortons Chain to Open Drive-Thrus in "every major city and town" in UK

In the middle of a climate, economic and obesity crisis, why is this being allowed?

Tim Hortons in Glasgow
Tim Hortons in Glasgow.

Lloyd Alter 

Tim Hortons, the once-Canadian, once-beloved restaurant chain (now owned by a Brazilian investment fund, who have been running it into the ground) just announced plans to open drive-thru restaurants "in every major city and town" in the UK. The head of the company in the UK says "our drive-thru and flagship locations have delivered exceptional performance and our model is proving to be well attuned to the evolving needs of customers at this time." McDonald's has also announced that it is building 300 more drive-thrus.

The needs of customers at this time are apparently to use their cars as rolling PPE in a time of pandemic to get dinner instead of going inside. There are about a quarter as many drive-thrus per capita in the UK as there are in the USA, so there is room for expansion.

In Britain, they do not seem to have got to the point – as they have in the U.S. and Canada – where drive-thrus are being banned as climate-killers. In Canada, reasons given for bans are "health promotion, environmental concerns from idling, community character and aesthetics, traffic concerns, and walkability." A study found that "health promotion and chronic disease prevention are public health gains from the implementation of fast food drive-through service bylaws."

There is also an obesity and health crisis in the UK, with the prime minister saying  "Obesity is one of the real co-morbidity factors. Losing weight, frankly, is one of the ways you can reduce your own risk from coronavirus."

Oh, and don't forget that there is also a climate crisis in the UK, with the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, calling for new green jobs and a green recovery.

"The world faces two seemingly separate yet fundamental problems - Covid-19, the biggest health crisis in living memory, and climate change – the defining challenge of the modern era. But they are not separate. The response to one affects success on the other. And the defining question is, how does the UK use this moment to rebuild our economy."

One would think that would mean not building things that encourage driving. Meanwhile, scientists are worried that everyone is going to drive far too much as the country comes out of this crisis.

"'A big worry that people will naturally want to go back to their cars to go to work, and that could rebound the emissions to the same level or even higher than before, once everybody goes back,' said Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia, who led the analysis. The researchers say that fundamental, systemic change is needed if the emissions curve is to be flattened in a way that would limit the very worst impacts of climate change."

Britain Should Ban Drive-Thrus Now

Tim Hortons in Canada
Seriously, Britain, You do not want this.  Stu pendousmat in Wikipedia

This raises a serious question: in the face of worries about obesity, about climate, about litter, and about a green recovery, why are these drive-thru restaurants even being allowed?

When a Quora question asked "Are drive through restaurants as popular in the UK as they are in the United States?," the answers were all negative and dismissive, such as "Only junk food shops like McDonald’s offer a drive through and even then these are small in number." It is not yet at a level where they have become a problem but they haven't seen anything yet.

In Canada, when a Tim Hortons came to town, they would set up a drive-thru and every other restaurant on the main street would just close up. They suck the life and vitality out of Main Streets (or High Streets in the UK). Everybody sits in their idling SUVs and pickup trucks, causing huge spikes in pollution. If you walk down a street it often seems like their cups are everywhere.

Before the British roads are overwhelmed with Tim Hortons drive-thrus and the British countryside is buried in empty Timmy cups, they should consider a ban on new drive-thru restaurants. They have enough problems.