Tim Hortons has not had a good year.
Earlier this summer, the company, which was once synonymous with the Canadian identity, fell dozens of spots in a reputability ranking amid a labour dispute and headline-making quarrels with troublesome franchise-owners.
Then social media was abuzz with mocking criticism of the company's gross-looking new poutine.
Desperate to improve public relations, Tim Hortons has even teased the introduction of home-delivery service in some Canadian cities.
But today, more damning news has thwarted those efforts.
According to the National Post, the company has seized four locations to punish a rogue franchise owner.
David Hughes has long been a critic of the company, complaining about pricey new appliances and pressure tactics from corporate management.
Tim Hortons finally confiscated his holdings after claiming that he released confidential corporate information. The exact nature of that information, however, is unconfirmed.
According to a Tim Hortons spokesperson:
"The Tim Hortons franchisee agreement clearly states it is not allowable for any restaurant owner to share confidential company information with the media; disparage the company or the Tim Hortons brand in the media or with community partners and vendors; or ultimately harm the Tim Hortons brand in any way."
It seems Tim Hortons is unwilling to tolerate any more criticism that could damage its brand. But perhaps the company should focus on franchisee and Canadians' real complaints rather than protecting its image at all cost.
Anecdotally, we've all heard that Canadians are disillusioned with the coffee and donut chain. Some have even called for a boycott.
One thing is certain: until Tim Hortons can revive the Canadian spirit that once defined its brand, it is sure to suffer.
That might be a impossible feat. As Canada braces for an uncertain economic and political future, national confidence is unlikely to recover for a while.