11 August 2018
Published also in Business Mirror

JOLLIBEE Foods Corp. (JFC) continues its aggressive expansion into Canada as it opened the doors of Jollibee Mississauga on July 20, the fast-food company’s second outpost in Toronto.

Jollibee Mississauga is housed inside Seafood City, a 50,000-square-foot Filipino marketplace, located in Mississauga’s Heartland Town Centre.

The newest restaurant marks the company’s 41st North American location and fourth Canadian store, following two openings in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2016 and one in Scarborough, Toronto, in April this year—proof of the brand’s commitment to this region as a key growth market.

The company’s expansion into Canada follows the steady rise of Filipino food in the country, with several Filipino restaurants gaining visibility and popularity in recent years, as well as major grocery stores carrying more Filipino products and brands on their aisles. The large and growing Filipino diaspora, coupled with many Canadians’ enthusiasm to sample international cuisines, are among the reasons that make Canada a smart choice for Filipino food-service businesses.

Before opening its doors to the public, Jollibee Mississauga held a preopening and store blessing on July 19. In attendance during the event were JFC Group President for North America Jose Minana, Consul Edwin Gil Mendoza of the Philippine Consulate General of Toronto, Senior Trade Commissioner Maria Roseni M. Alvero, Seafood City Mississauga CEO Matthew Go, the JFC North America Management Team and representatives from Sysco, the North American food-service conglomerate providing logistics to the fast-food chain.

The opening of Jollibee Mississauga contributes to boosted economic activity in Ontario. The newest store generates 120 direct and indirect jobs. The menu also features the fastfood chain’s well-loved favorites made from ingredients already sourced from Ontario. The brand’s famous Jolly Crispy Chicken is made with Ontario-raised chickens.

The brand aims to bring to Filipino-Canadian customers a true taste of home. Favorites such as the “Palabok Fiesta” and Jollibee’s famous gravy are made with spices and ingredients imported from the Philippines, or in the case of the Peach Mango Pie, flown straight from the Philippines. The store is also designed with interiors reminiscent of the Jollibee locations in Manila, which are intended to give Filipino-Canadian visitors the feeling of being back in the motherland. For members of the Filipino diaspora in Canada, a visit to Jollibee is as much about the experience and connection to their home country as it is about the food.

Learning from the hourlong lineups at Jollibee Scarborough, the Mississauga branch also makes use of a ticketing system that indicates their turn to manage the crowds. The new store is also built with a larger counter and fitted with more cashier lanes to take more customer orders and has a larger in-store dining area than in Scarborough.

Opening weekend saw Jollibee devotees lining up for the promise of the fast-food chain’s beloved offerings and a Jollibee plush toy going to the first 100 customers on Saturday and Sunday. Seafood City and its food establishments, such as Grill City, Noodle Street, Crispy Town and Valerio’s Bake Shop, readily received the overflow of customers from Jollibee. The complex saw heavier foot traffic and greater activity than usual, with customers doing their grocery shopping while waiting and others discouraged by the wait at Jollibee dining in the food court for their fix of Filipino food.

Both of Jollibee’s Toronto locations continue to draw big crowds, with even non-Filipinos venturing to the store to see for themselves what the hype is all about. People are still reporting lines of up to two hours of waiting time, even three months after Jollibee first arrived in the city. This weekend saw the visit of newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who, like his predecessor, Premier Kathleen Wynne, experienced the exuberance that this homegrown iconic Philippine brand adds to the diverse food-service industry not only of the province, but of Canada, the country.

Jollibee Mississauga is the second of three stores the company has planned to open in Toronto this year. A recent announcement made by Jollibee CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong stated that “Jollibee will open 100 stores in Canada in the next five years.” This can be considered a very aggressive stance on the part of a Filipino company in making a mark in the mainstream market outside of the Philippines.