Never mind the pandemic, Jollibee, the Philippine-based fast food chain, is planning the largest expansion ever to its North American footprint.
And not surprisingly, Winnipeg is part of that play.
Its third store in the city opened last week on Nairn Avenue between Stapleton Street and Panet Road.
Its decision to enter the Canadian market in this strong Filipino market turned out to be a good one.
With more than 1,400 locations in the South Pacific nation, the company’s first Canadian store on Ellice Avenue produced traffic jams and long line-ups when it opened in December 2016. The second location ended up being a major draw at the then newly-renovated Northgate Shopping Centre.
The popular fast-food chain – featuring signature dishes like the Jolly Crispy Chicken, Jolly Spaghetti and Peach Mango Pie – plans to add 28 stores to its North American network this year, 19 in the U.S. and nine in Canada.
With most of North America shut down at various times throughout 2020, the company was still able to open 17 stores in Canada and the U.S. including one on Toronto’s Yonge Street.
Like every other restaurant it worked at pivoting to call ahead pick-up, take-out and drive-thru options and it launched nationwide delivery service via DoorDash in April last year.
The company still has a soft spot for Winnipeg.
"With both of our existing locations situated on the city’s west side, we are thrilled to finally be able to extend our signature 'joy of eating' to those who call Winnipeg’s east side home," said Maribeth Dela Cruz, president of Jollibee Group North America, Philippine Brands. "The city’s close-knit Filipino community has especially embraced our brand since day-one, and we are excited to provide another convenient location for both our fans and newcomers who crave a delicious fast-food option that they truly can’t get anywhere else."
It already has more than 300 international branches including 72 in the U.S., now 20 in Canada, as well as locations in the People’s Republic of China (specifically in Hong Kong and Macau), Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
It launched in North America in 1998 with its first store in Daly City, and its stores are dotted throughout the U.S.
Its Canadian locations so far stretch from Ontario to Alberta.
Earlier this month it opened a new mobile kitchen in Hamilton in an exclusive partnership with DoorDash. Not just a ghost kitchen (that only takes delivery orders) it will have a pick-up option and the company’s plan is to move the store to another location after six months.
"With both of our existing locations situated on the city’s west side, we are thrilled to finally be able to extend our signature 'joy of eating' to those who call Winnipeg’s east side home." – Maribeth Dela Cruz, president of Jollibee Group North America, Philippine Brands
"Many restaurants we work with are looking for new ways to cater to their loyal customers and expand their reach and revenue," said Ryan Freeman, head of enterprise partnerships at DoorDash Canada. "Over the past year, we’ve seen the power of new kitchen models to help restaurants reach more customers and grow sales, which is why we are excited to have created an innovative mobile kitchen that will help Jollibee meet evolving customer needs."
Its North American expansion may be noteworthy, but it is already one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian restaurant company.
Jollibee Group has eight wholly-owned brands (Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Mang Inasal, Yonghe King, Hong Zhuang Yuan, Smashburger); five franchised brands (Burger King, Panda Express, and PHO24 in the Philippines; Dunkin’ and Tim Ho Wan in certain territories in China); 80 per cent ownership of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf; 60 per cent ownership in the SuperFoods Group that owns Highlands Coffee and PHO24; and 50 per cent ownership in a joint venture established to operate and expand Yoshinoya, one of the largest and most recognized Japanese restaurant brands, in the Philippines.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.