Asia’s number one fast food chain plots UK entrance

Customers enter a store of Philippines' leading fast-food giant Jollibee Foods in Manila on October 14, 2015. Jollibee Foods announced on October 13 it had acquired 40 percent of an upmarket US hamburger chain for 99 million USD.      AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO        (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Asian fast food operator Jollibee will open its first store in the UK next year as part of an international strategy to expand into new overseas markets.

The publicly-quoted outfit, which is based in the Philippines, has revealed it intends to open its maiden site in London when it dips its foot in the UK water in 2016.

Its imminent arrival will put fast food rivals on high alert as the company is the largest QSR operator in Asia and is likely to want to expand quickly. It currently operates and franchises a network of more than 3,000 restaurants worldwide.

Last month it splashed out $335m (£220m) to acquire a 40% stake in Smashburger, the US-based fast casual restaurant concept.

Jollibee also plans to open a branch in Milan next year, as well as inaugural stores in Canada, Malaysia and Oman. Australia and Japan are set to follow the year after.

Reports quoting VP of international operations, Dennis Flores, suggest the chain is eager to step up its campaign to become a true global brand.

“At present, Jollibee is present in two continents but in the next two years, we will see Jollibee in four continents,” he is said to have commented.

Philippines' leading fast-food giant Jollibee Foods employees attend to customer orders at a Jollibee store in Manila on October 14, 2015. Jollibee Foods announced on October 13 it had acquired 40 percent of an upmarket US hamburger chain for 99 million USD.      AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO        (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Although Jollibee is keen to expand internationally, it is already in the top 10 of the world’s largest fast food chains by market capitalisation.

It trades under the trade names Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Yonghe King, Hong Zhuang Yuan, Mang Inasal, Burger King Philippines, San Pin Wang, Jinja Bar. It also has a 50% interest in the Super Foods Group, which operates and franchises restaurants under the Pho 24 and Highlands Coffee brands throughout Vietnam.

Following the Smashburger deal, Jollibee Chairman Tony Tan Caktiong said the company had been “actively seeking” an investment in a leading US growth brand

“This acquisition will make JFC’s presence in the US more significant, going beyond the Filipino market and serving mainstream consumers in the $100 billion (£66 billion) US burger market, a food segment which is estimated to be almost three times larger than the pizza, sandwich or coffee segment in terms of sales. This acquisition will make the US one of JFC’s most important markets and drivers of long term growth along with the Philippines, China and other Asian markets abroad.”

Jollibee was founded by Caktiong and his family, beginning as a humble ice cream parlour before growing into an emerging global brand.

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