LOS ANGELES: Filipino QSR Jollibee is growing its US following as it caters to homesick expats, but as the company is targeting expansion across South East Asia, China, the US and Europe, it needs to widen its appeal.

This year, the brand aims to open as many as 250 new stores outside the Philippines, including London, adding to branches in Milan, Macau, and Toronto that opened this year, to great excitement.

In its native Philippines, the company outsells all other QSR chains, including McDonald’s and KFC. Now, as the company looks outward, it faces a new challenge of appealing to audiences beyond the Filipino diaspora. Though there are over three million Filipinos in the US, the company is making moves toward other tastes.

Earlier this year, the holding company Jollibee Foods increased its investment in the Colorado-based burger chain, Smashburger, to $200m – an 85% stake. Smashburger operates more than 300 stores across the US, compared to Jollibee’s 37 outlets.

Speaking to Nikkei Asian Review, Smashburger CEO Tom Ryan explained that the Jollibee leadership was looking to “establish a US or North America-based beachhead”. The logic behind investing in a burger chain was simple: Jollibee wanted a stake in “America’s favourite food”. Since then, however, the company has dragged on the group’s total earnings, and it is currently working to make the brand more profitable.  

But the spine of the company’s plans remain with the core brand. Jollibee founder and chairman, Tony Tan Caktiong, aims to make his company one of the five largest QSRs on the planet. What’s more, he wants to achieve this in five years. Currently, the brand is the world’s 16th largest by sales. Reaching the top five spot will mean having to make $11.2bn in sales, a significant increase on last year’s $3.4bn.

In the Philippines, the plan involves opening 300 stores a year, while expanding overseas sales to 50% of total revenue. Its strategy in the US includes acquiring a Mexican restaurant chain, though the company won’t say which one. In China, meanwhile, the group intends to expand its more than 300 Yonghe King noodle and Hong Zhuang Yuan congee shops, alongside a proposed 1,500 new Dunkin’ Donuts stores – whose Chinese franchise Jollibee owns.

Across South East Asia, however, the group is targeting growing markets and familiar tastes. The opportunity in Vietnam, for instance, is so great that Jollibee plans to go public in the market in order to fund further Asian expansion. As a whole, the region’s large, young, and increasingly affluent middle class present a huge opportunity.

Sourced from the Financial Times, Nikkei Asian Review; additional content by WARC staff