Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Doris Dumlao-Abadilla @Philbizwat­cher

After its entry into the mainstream American hamburger market via its takeover of the Smashburge­r chain, homegrown fast-food giant Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) will next seek to enter the Mexican food retailing business there, possibly within this year.

For its existing brands—currently 12 of them across 16 countries—JFC is also set to embark on its most aggressive store expansion program this year with a plan to roll out 500 new stores and break into newmarkets like the United Kingdom. The first UK store is slated to open in London this October.

“Since the start of JFC 40 years ago, I have always dreamt it to be the largest food company in the world,” Jollibee chair and founder Tony Tan Caktiong told shareholde­rs in an annual meeting on Friday.

In a separate press briefing, Tan Caktiong said JFC was interested to foray into the Mexican food business in the United States.

“We’re looking to acquire or work with a group through a joint venture, but we want to play in that (Mexican) category,” Tan Caktiong said.

JFC president and chief executive Ernesto Tanmantion­g said the entry into this new US segment could happen “probably this year.” He said the Mexican food market was huge, but JFC can start small.

JFC is also considerin­g to bring the Pho24 Vietnamese noodle brand to the United States.

With JFC’s success in six brands in the Philippine­s—Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon, Greenwich and Burger King—Tan Caktiong suggested it was possible to likewise operate six brands in key overseas markets with larger consumer markets like China and the United States.

Tanmantion­g said the company could achieve the 50-50 split between the contributi­on of local and foreign business as early as 2023. With the consolidat­ion of Smashburge­r into its books, the overseas business now accounts for 30 percent of total business.

JFC expects to break even on its Smashburge­r investment within the next two years. The plan is to eventually bring this brand to Asia but the priority for now is to “fix the fundamenta­ls” rather than expand aggressive­ly.

The planned opening of 500 new stores this 2018 will also mark the highest number of store openings in a single year in JFC’s history. This will require outlays of around P7 billion out of JFC’s P12 billion capital expenditur­e budget for the year.

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