Jollibee announces extensive Canadian expansion plans

Filipino brand Jollibee, one of the fastest-growing Asian restaurant companies in the world, intends to vastly expand its presence in Canada and the U.S. in the next few years.

The brand plans to reach 300 locations across North America by 2024 and to have opened 500 new stores on the continent in the next five to seven years, ultimately reaching far beyond the 12 states and four Canadian provinces in which it currently resides.

Before the end of 2021, the brand will open 28 locations, including its first store in downtown Vancouver.

Jollibee already has more than 1,400 locations across the globe, including 17 in Canada across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Its website currently lists three Canadian locations “coming soon”. These are all in the Toronto area: an Ontario Mobile Kitchen in Hamilton, a physical store at Scarborough Town Centre, and a store at Toronto’s Yonge & Broadway.

“The big vision of our company is to become one of the top-five restaurant companies in the world, and North America for one is going to be a key market for that international expansion,” says Maribeth Dela Cruz, president of Jollibee, North America.

Dela Cruz says the initial strategy is to enter markets where the brand already has high awareness, which would be where there’s a large concentration of Filipino Americans who’ve migrated to Canada and the U.S. Once those are filled, the plan is to expand past those areas.

“Those are actually helping fuel the growth of brands like Jollibee, and so we’ve been getting a lot of interest on that,” Dela Cruz says. “The intent is to make sure that we have the presence of the store in diverse markets or in different markets, because at the end of the day as people say, we want to patronize the brand except there’s not one store that’s near me. So I think strategically, it’s important that we be able to expand to a wider area, more locations across North America, so that it can help also in consumers reaching us.”

Jollibee has fared better than most foodservice brands throughout the pandemic. During the first two months of 2020, the chain saw sales grow by double digits and it quickly recovered after COVID-19 hit in March 2020, thanks to proactive strategies like continuing a drive-thru-heavy model, partnering with DoorDash, unveiling a new online ordering app in January, and opening its first ghost kitchen in Chicago last year.

In 2020, the company grew sales by nearly 11% to $140 million, according to Technomic data reported by Restaurant Business.

Indeed, Jollibee plans to build stores with dual drive-thrus, more outdoor seating, curbside pickup parking spaces, and designated areas for mobile orders inside restaurants. 

“Drive-thru has been key in the growth during the pandemic and obviously something that will continue to persist moving forward. Whenever we try to look for real estate or for locations, the priority is to find the location that will allow us to put in a drive-thru,” Dela Cruz says.