When news last year spread that Jollibee planned an outpost of the popular Filipino restaurant in suburban Skokie, fans went ballistic. They started a Facebook group devoted to the opening and sent thousands of enthusiastic Internet posts. Well, here's some news for fans of the most-popular fast-food chain in the Philippines. They plan on opening their first Midwestern location sometime over July 21-23 at 3534 W. Touhy Ave., according to marketing director Carol Rodriguez
But there's more, as there is another. Rodriguez confirmed that later this year the chain will open a location at 5033 N. Elston Ave.—within Chicago city limits—sharing the same address as Seafood City, the Filipino grocer. She didn't provide an exact opening date.
Many Filipinos are already familiar with the sweet-Filipino-style spaghetti and fried chicken that's already "a part of their lives," according to Rodriguez. During opening days, in markets such as Houston, it's not unusual to see fans line-up before the sun rises. She expects the same in Skokie and Chicago, home of the one the largest Filipino populations in America. Jollibee has been scouting Chicagoland locations for at least five years.
"Jollibee is very excited to be part of Chicago, we have been waiting for this time for so long," Rodriguez said. "We have the same feelings as the people from Chicago waiting; we've also been waiting for this time, to welcome everyone in Chicago to Jollibee."
The menus at both locations will be similar, but some items, including breakfast, won't be immediately available. The Skokie location will have a drive-thru and be slightly larger than most of their restaurants. Jollibee wants to make sure they have ample room for their first in the area. When Jollibee opened in Houston, Rodriguez said many Chicagoans flocked south to visit. She expects the same kind of tourism at Skokie.
For now, Jollibee will concentrate on their Filipino customers before doing more mainstream outreach to other customers, Rodriguez said. They'll give out 300 free dolls of their bee mascot to those waiting in line for the opening. But Jollibee popularity cuts across ages. Folks grew up with the chain, celebrating birthdays —even weddings. Marketing has played a role in that.
"In all the years that we've been building the brand, we've always talked about family," Rodriguez said.
They're also planning openings in Toronto (the first in Canada) and Jacksonville, Fla.