Jollibee Plans to Triple Number of U.S. Restaurants in Just Four Years

The Filipino fast food chain is known for its fried chicken, halo halo, and spaghetti, among other fan-favorite items.

Photo: holgs/Getty Images

For most of September, the average overnight temperatures in Calgary, Canada usually slip into the mid-forties, which is nice if you like to burrow deep into your duvet cover, but downright chilly if you're sleeping outside the Pacific Place Mall. The weather forecast wasn't enough to stop some seriously dedicated (and seriously warm-blooded) Jollibee fanatics from spending an entire night outside the fast food chain's first-ever Calgary store as they waited for it to open.

Marivic and Augusto Heraldo told the Calgary Herald that when they saw people already in line at 11:30 p.m. the night before, they decided that they needed to do it too. "When I saw there was people already there, I said, 'OK, let's put our chair [down], I'm going to stay,'" Marivic said. Counting the overnighters, more than 400 people were in line by the time a Jollibee worker unlocked the doors at 7 a.m.

That scene repeated itself in Hayward, California on Friday night—although with slightly warmer weather. More than 100 people were waiting by the time that brand-new Jollibee served its first orders of Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti (topped with ham and sliced hot dog, of course).

"Knowing that accessibility is important to our customers, we're so excited to be able to expand our reach across the state and bring additional Jollibee locations to the communities that have already shown us support and expressed their love for the brand," Maribeth Dela Cruz, President of Jollibee Foods Corporation North America Brands, said in a statement.

The beloved Filipino fried chicken chain has promised an "aggressive expansion strategy" to go with its pineapple-and-cheese Amazing Aloha burgers, pledging to have at least 150 locations in the United States by 2023. Considering that Hayward is just its 38th restaurant, it's going to take a lot of work to launch 112 more in the next four years. Before Hayward, it hadn't opened a U.S. location since October 2018, when the 37th Jollibee opened in Manhattan.

But we're not doubting the power of the 'bee (or of its wide-eyed, eternally smiling bee mascot). It already has more than 4,600 locations scattered throughout 21 different countries, and describes itself as "one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian restaurant companies in the world." Earlier this summer, Jollibee dropped $350 million to buy The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain, and before that, it spent $210 million in its acquisition of Smashburger, as part of an expensive effort to raise its profile in the States. (It's okay, Jollibee. We went through a Smashburger phase too).

Jollibee execs told Reuters that within a decade, it wants to earn 30 percent of its revenue in the U.S.; before it bought the Coffee Bean, that number was closer to 15 percent. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of its sales come from the Philippines; in its home country, Jollibee has outsold McDonald's every year since 1984.

"How are you going to do it? Our formula is very simple. Offer the best tasting food at the right price and you're going to make it," Chief Financial Officer Ysmael Baysa said.

Regardless of how they do it, the promise of several dozen additional Jollibee locations is great news for those of us who already adore that chicken—and for the uninitiated. The next Jollibee grand opening will be in October in Artesia, California. It might not be a bad idea to just go ahead and get in line now.

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