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Ergonomic Redesign of a Tim Horton’s Café Franchise Report

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Updated: Jul 5th, 2019

The safety of workers in the workplace is becoming an important aspect of business. In recent years, the number of employees suing their former employers has been increasing. Many workers sue their former employers for workplace injuries accruing over time. Unlike accidents, the impact of long-term exposure to bad working conditions is difficult to prove.

This is because an employer can argue that the employee had an underlying condition, or that the employee condition occurs to many regardless of working conditions. The best way for lawyers on both sides to determine the truth in regards to long-term injuries is by carrying out an ergonomic analysis of the working environment of an employee.

This paper presents the findings and recommendations of an ergonomics analysis carried out at Cafes in Canada. The goal of the analysis was to determine whether the working conditions in the fast food restaurants are safe for workers. The specific systems investigated in the exercise were the service lines.


Tim Horton’s Café began operations in 1964, taking the name of one of the founders, who was a Canadian Hockey player. The company opened several branches in Canada, and later started licensing franchises across Canada and the United States. The franchise agreements did not include any standards regarding work practices the cafés.

The result is that each store has variable staff safety standards. The danger with this is that Tim Horton cafés with poor ergonomic practices can destroy the reputation of he Horton Brand, leading to loss of business across North America. In addition, the company will find itself with many cases in court relating to workplace injuries suffered from long-term exposure to poor working conditions.

Structure of the Report

This paper has four main sections. The first section looks at the ergonomic problems of workplace design and work practices. It identifies the problems with the workplace design of Tim Horton’s Cafés. The second section deals with an assessment of these problems. The assessment will analyze various facet of the working environment at the Café. The third section presents the result of the analysis and the final sections identifies redesign consideration that the café needs to make.

Problem Identification

The main area of interest in this project was the safety of the staff working inside any of the Tim Horton’s Café Franchises in Canada. The staff is very vulnerable to low intensity strain that may accrue into long-term injuries. They do repetitive jobs that involve carrying various loads and using certain postures repeatedly. As pointed out earlier, the concerns identified relate to the long-term impact of repeated exposure to some of the tasks associated with their jobs

Any Tim Horton’s Café Franchise has a manager, waiters, cashiers, and chefs. The actual number of employees in each café depends on the proprietor. The specific members of staff this analysis focused on were the waiters. Their main job is to take client orders and to fill them. The service model used in Tim Horton’s Café’s is predominantly, self-service. The clients buy food from a counters and goes with the food to the eating area. The waiters work is behind the counter, taking the orders and filling them.

The tasks a waiter handles are a follows. First, the waiter receives a receipt from the client across the counter. Secondly, the waiter studies the receipt and places it in a receipt box. The waiter then picks the appropriate packaging for the food items required by the client. Thirdly, the waiter picks the food, and packs it. Finally, the waiters place the food on a tray, and hands it back to the client.

In many stores, food such as donuts, cakes and pastries are on display racks under the counter. The waiter simply picks the food and packs it. In some cases, the waiter must make an order by asking the kitchen staff to prepare a food item. This is common with burgers and sand witches. The kitchen staff prepares the food items and hands them over to the waiter, who then packs them and hands them over to clients across the counter.

The waiters have several pieces of equipment at their disposal when handling their duties. First, they have microwave ovens for heating food quickly. Secondly, they have juice dispensers for fresh juices. Thirdly, the waiters use touch-screen pads to place orders to the kitchen for food items that are not in the display racks at the counter.

The major risks that waiters face while working at Tim Horton’s Café include lower back strain, ankle injuries, and neck injuries. These risks come from the constant bending, turning, and movement of hands while serving customers. The movements a waiter makes between studying a receipt and packing food involves turning, and bending.

Repeated turning can put pressure on the ankle joints and the knees. The bending and long hours of standing can lead to back pains. In addition, the constant crouching to pick up food items at the lower shelves of the display counter can also lead to neck pains. This means that the main design principles needed to address these concerns should be those that solve problems associated with repeated stress on the back, ankles and knees, and the neck.


The focus of this project was to explore different ways of making the work of the waiters more convenient using ergonomic principles. This called for an in depth analysis of the tasks and the work done by the waiters. During the process of problems identification, it was possible to identify the main tasks carried out by a waiter behind the counter. This section deals with an in-depth assessment of these tasks about potential bodily injuries.


The three main methods used to gather information about the operations at Tim Horton’s Café were as follows. First, observation proved very useful in determining how the food service process works at Tim Horton’s Café. Secondly, interviews with staff proves useful in finding out what their view were regarding the working conditions.

They were simple interview simply aiming at finding out what they felt were the biggest challenges associated with their work. The third method was an online review of the view of former Tim Horton’s employees on glassdoor.com. The reviews used in the analysis were all from the month of November 2013.


The observations took place for a period of two hours on a Saturday evening. This is one of the peak times for the café. The waiters were aware of the process. The objectives of the process were as follows. First, it was important to develop metrics for use in carrying out ergonomic analysis of the working conditions in the café.

Secondly, the process sought to identify the challenges of working as a waiter in a Tim Horton’s Café of relevance to ergonomics. Thirdly, the observation exercise aimed at finding out how often the cashiers took breaks, and any signs of agitation by clients based on customer service.

The main observations made in regards to the time spent on various tasks were as follows. On average, it took a waiter 45 seconds to fill an order. The sizes of orders varied from a single cup of coffee to trays of assorted snacks. Serving single items was the quickest for of service. It took longer to prepare sandwiches and burgers. The second observation was that a waiter bends or squats at least twice every five minutes.

The main reason for this is the design of the display shelves. If a client ordered something in the shelves, the waiters had to bend or squat to reach it. The third main observation was that the waiters made a 360-degree turn (or equivalent) at least once every five minutes.

This usually occurred when clients ordered food that was not in the display shelves. The waiter had to turn to the kitchen window and place the order. Finally, the observations revealed that accessing packaging material broke the serving routine whenever a waiter needed to open a new batch of packaging materials.

The interviews with the waiters were very brief. They took place just before the waiters left their stations at the end of their shifts. Three waiters were interviewed. The waiters were asked to respond to three questions. The three questions were as follows.

  1. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  2. Are suffering from any recurrent bodily pain that you associate with this job?
  3. What changes would you like to see in your working conditions?

The answers to the first question were as follows. First, the waiters said that the most challenging aspect of their job was standing for long hours. A normal shift lasted for eight hours. Each of their shifts had at least one peak time. The peak time for the morning shift was between 12.00 pm and 2.00 pm, which coincides with lunch hour.

The second peak time was between 5.30 pm to 8.00 pm. During those hours, the waiter said that they have to work on their feet with barely any time to rest. For the slower hours, it is possible to take breaks. However, as long as the waiter is behind the counter, the waiter must remain standing.

The design of the area did not anticipate the need for sitting. Secondly, the waiters all reported that they had minor back pain and inflammation of their soles. They also said that they frequently suffer from headaches and dizziness at the end of their shifts, depending on how stressful the day was. When asked about the changes they would like to see in the workplace to make their working environment more pleasant, they said that they would like to have comfortable resting chairs for use during the slow hours of the day.

The third aspect of the assessment of the working conditions at the Tim Horton’s Café was an online review using glassdoor.com. Glassdoor.com is a website that collects reviews from former employees on the working conditions of the companies they worked in. So far, glassdoor.com has over 280 reviews from former Tim Horton’s Café employees.

The review undertaken for this project used the employee reviews posted in the month of November 2013. The format of the data available from glassdoor.com include the duration the reviewer worked at the company, the position they held in the company, and the pros and cons of working for the company. They review also allows former employees to indicate whether they would recommend the company to a friend, and to offer any advice to the senior management.

The results obtained that are relevant to ergonomics were as follows. First, the reviewers felt that the best part of working in a Tim Horton’s Café was that it gave someone an opportunity to meet many people, learn about customer service, and grow under the supervision of the managers. On the list of cons, the highest rated negative experience was standing for long hours. Three out of the ten reviewers singled this as their worst experience. Table 1 below shows the cons given by employees to glassdoor.com.

Cons of working in a Tim Horton’s Cafe

Figure 1: Cons of working in a Tim Horton’s Cafe

One of the main observations from this review was that standing for long- hours was a source of concern for two employees. These two employees both worked as cashiers in the company. The rest worked in other department. The rest of the issues show that there is a morale problem in the company. Many employees feel that they pay is too low, and that the environment is too stressful. Stress can lead to accidents in the workplace. Too much tension can also affect the quality of customer care in the café.


The analyses of the findings made above are as follows

Task Analysis

The tasks a waiter performs when serving clients are as follows

  1. Receiving receipt from cashier
  2. Studying receipt and placing it in receipt box (Order confirmation)
  3. If food needs preparation, placing order to the kitchen
  4. Picking packaging material
  5. Picking food item or/and
  6. Pouring drinks
  7. Placing food items in tray
  8. Handing over the food to client

These a waiter must complete at least six of the eight tasks listed. The options available arise of the waiter does not need to order a food item from the kitchen, and whether not the client want both food and drinks.

Task Analysis

Table 1: Task Analysis

The analysis of the tasks carried out by the waiters revealed several things. The tasks that require the most physical exertion are tasks iv-vii. The previous one do not require much movement in the service area. The first significant task from an ergonomic point of view is the picking of packaging materials.

Every order made must be packed for the client. This means that each time a client makes an order the waiter must make this motion before proceeding to the next step. The implication of this task is that minor changes in the position of the packaging materials can result in significant changes in the working conditions of the waiter. It is imperative to ensure that the packing materials are at a comfortable height for each waiter.

The second task of interest from an ergonomic perspective is the picking of food items, either from the kitchen, or from the display shelves. This activity is also repeated severally making it a significant source of strain for the waiters.

The third point arising from the analysis of the tasks taking place at the counter is that the waiters make circular motions if the food items ordered are not inside the display shelf in front of the waiter. These circular motions can lead to lateral strain in the ankles especially of the waiter turns in the same direction each time.

The final task of interest is placing food items in the tray. While the waiters do this for only a short period, it represents the time when they carry peak lead as they hand it over to the customer, Depending on the size of the order, the weight of the tray can range from 0.5 kg to 4 kg. This is very significant because repeated loading can led to strain and back injury.

Diagram 1 below shows a waiter in a Tim Horton’s Café serving coffee. The layout of this store is such that the waiter must turn 180-degrees to pick food items placed on the display shelf behind the counter. If a waiter turns in the same direction each time there is an order, they may end up with ankle injuries, or sprains. The second picture shows a young customer squatting to take a closer look at the snacks in the display shelf. A waiter may also need to squat to pick the items in the lower shelves of the display shelf.

Inside a Tim Horton’s Café

Figure 2: Inside a Tim Horton’s Café

NIOSH Equation

The movement that are relevant to the calculation of the NIOSH equation include the movement from the counter to pick packaging materials, and the bending motion needed to pick food items located at the bottom of the display shelf. The display shelf has a number of levels.

This makes it more demanding to pick items at the bottom shelf as opposed t items in the higher trays. The measurements taken at the cafeteria showed that the waiters must bend an average of two times every five minutes. The significant measurements needed to find the NIOSH values are given in the table below

Average load 0.5 kg
Horizontal distance of hands from midpoint 50 cm
Distance of the hands to the floor 60 cm
Lifting Distance 50 cm
Angle of symmetry 45 deg

Table 3: NIOSH Parameters

RWL = 23 * 0.5 * 0.955 * 0.895 * 0.856 * 0.81 * 1 = 6.82 kg

Design Recommendations

The analysis presented above opens the way for certain design choices the management of Horton needs to consider. The current design of the workplace can result in long-term injuries. The design choices in questions should help reduce the stress placed in the backs and ankles of the waiters based on the repeat motions they make behind the counter. The design choices are as follows.

First, the management of the café needs to consider placing stool behind the counters for waiters to use as they rest. The current design assumes that the waiters do not needs a place to sit because they spend the whole day behind the counter. This assumption is not correct. Waiters spend a lot of time standing waiting for customers during the off-peak hours. The situation is very different during the Peak hours.

In this regard, the management can help to reduce the strain associated with standing for long hours by giving the waiter stools to sit on when the number of customers is low. The type of stool chosen for this task should meet the following criteria. First, it should be high enough for the waiter to sit on it without climbing or first squatting. a situation where the waiter must rise or squat to reach the seat may be counterproductive.

This is because repeating this motion many times will only introduce new stress areas. The best solution it to use a height adjustable stool. This will ensure that each waiter can adjust it to a comfortable height. Secondly, the stool should have a backrest, to promote a good sitting posture. Poor sitting postures on stools without backrest can lead to back problems. Thirdly, the stool should be able to swivel. This will make it easier to mount and to dismount from the nearest direction.

The second element that the management needs to consider is the type of shoes the waiters wear to work. Shoes play a very important role in the way the body distributes loading stresses. One of the reason flat shoes are recommended for pregnant women is that they help them to keep a good posture while walking.

This reduces the strain on their backs. Waiters spend very many hours on their feet. This means that one the factors that contribute towards their comfort at work is the type of shoes they wear. In this regard, the management of Tim Horton’s Café should consider introducing a strict policy on the shoes waiters should wear to work. The recommended type of shoes is flat shoes with soft interiors, but with firm rubber soles. a shoe with soft interiors will reduce the pain arising from pressure points associated with tough interiors.

The soft interiors will spread the weight of the wearer across the soles of the feet. This reduces the risk of injury to bones in the feet. Tough rubber exteriors are also very important for two reasons. First, the exteriors should not bulge under the weight of the waiter because that will lead to stress on the ankle joint. Secondly, rubber soles have good grip. This will eliminate the possibility of slipping. In effect, it will eliminate the risk of dislocation while walking in the café.

The third design consideration that the management should make is rearranging the display shelves to reduce the number of times a waiter must bend to pick out items chosen by customers. Several options exist in this regard. The first option is to use a static display shelf for displays, and them to put all the food items in counters, which waiters can reach without bending or squatting. This will eliminate the need to bend.

The second option is to determine the position of the food items based in the demand. An analysis of the sale records will reveal the fastest moving items in the café. These items should be in the highest shelves to reduce the frequency of bending to pick food items. The third option is to eliminate the display shelves all together and find higher shelves for the food items. This will be the most costly option among the ones under consideration.

It will require the café to reconstruct its entire counter area. The fourth option would be to use a display shelf that has a conveyer system for lifting food items from the lower shelves to a comfortable height. This option retains the display shelf and all its advantages, and them provides a means of accessing items on the lower shelves while eliminating the need to bend or squat.

The fourth redesign option the management needs to consider relates to the placement of the packaging materials. Our analysis showed that the waiters handled the materials in a way that they found convenient. Some of them picked the materials one by one as needed, while some picked several packages and places them conveniently on the countertop.

From this observation, the management should consider aprons designed to hold a limited quantity of packaging materials that can serve about thirty customers. The tradeoff in this case will be between the quantities of packaging materials an apron can hold versus the weight of materials. The advantage that such as apron will provide it that it will eliminate the motions associates with reaching for the packaging materials. This is the most consistent motion the waiters make. Therefore, eliminating it will result in a reduction in long-term injuries.

The second advantage of such as apron is that it will eliminate the challenge of using a common height as a parameter. The counter tops have a fixed height. This height is not ideal for all the waiters, whose heights can vary by up to two feet. The apron will ensure that each waiter has the packaging materials at a convenient height. A variation of this idea is to use a belt like the one technicians use for their tools to hold the packaging materials.


The cost these measures are presented in the table below.

Options Description Cost ($)
Counter Stools 5 Resting Stools @ $500 for ensuring the waiters have a place to sit during off-peak hours. 2500
Implement use of appropriate Shoes Hire consultant to find out the best shoes for the purposes. Buy 10 shoes for the [email protected] $50 500
Display Shelves Cost of construction of new shelves for food display 1000
Change order of items in the display shelves to bring fast moving items neat the top Nil*
(This can be done internally using existing personnel)
Install Shelves with conveyors to eliminate bending and Squatting 2000
Giving Waiters Aprons that can store packaging materials Cost of Aprons or Belts @ $20 200

Table 4: Implementation Cost of Ergonomic measures

While this report concentrated on the impact of the physical working environment, it is important to note that the motivation of employees also plays a role in the safety of the workplace. This means that Tim Horton’s Café needs to address the other issues such as poor remuneration and feelings of boredom at work. These are leading causes of accidents in many companies. The total cost of implanting the measures proposed will vary depending on the specific measures chosen by the company.


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Walters, D., Frick, K., & Johnstone, R. (2011). Regulation Workplace Risks: A Comparative Study of Inspection Regimes in Times of Change. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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"Ergonomic Redesign of a Tim Horton’s Café Franchise." IvyPanda, 5 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/ergonomic-redesign-of-a-tim-hortons-cafe-franchise/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Ergonomic Redesign of a Tim Horton’s Café Franchise." July 5, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ergonomic-redesign-of-a-tim-hortons-cafe-franchise/.


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