Filipino-style sweet spaghetti and fried chicken could one day be as ubiquitous as a McDonald’s burger and fries. Jollibee, often called the “McDonald’s of the Philippines,” is planning for global expansion, and as a first step in that direction, the cult-favorite fast-food chain is making perhaps an unexpected move: It’s considering a bid to buy UK-based prepared sandwich chain Pret A Manger, Nasdaq reports.
Jollibee already operates the largest network of fast-food chains in the Philippines, according to Reuters, including Jollibee restaurants — home of dishes like chicken joy, burger steak, and the noodle dish palabok — and other large chains. Acquiring existing international restaurants is the next step in fueling Jollibee’s growth. Currently, 30 percent of Jollibee’s sales come from stores outside of the Philippines, including sales from both company-owned and franchised stores, but, according to Nasdaq, billionaire founder Tony Tan Cationg is hoping to grow that to 50 percent over the next five years.
There are 36 Jollibee locations in the U.S., all company-owned. In 2014, a Jollibee representative told Canadian Business that Jollibee didn’t want to allow franchises in the North American markets because they wanted “to enter there with the Jollibee brand the way we want it done — really right.” That policy doesn’t seem to have changed in light of global expansion plans, and there’s currently no franchising information on the Jollibee website for the U.S.
At this point, the bid for Pret is just a possibility, but an offer from Jollibee could be value Pret at over $1 billion. Although Pret’s sandwiches and salads are a far cry from Jollibee’s hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken, the take-out chain’s 400 stores are in markets where Jollibee is looking to expand, namely the U.S. and China.
In recent years, Jollibee, which has a market value of $5.2 billion, has expanded through smaller acquisitions, like a 40 percent stake in Smashburger and a stake in Vietnamese coffee chain Highlands Coffee. In the U.S., Jollibee locations draw a devoted following of Filipino expats, but with acquisitions like this, the hope is that the Jollibee brand will find an international following, as well.