Suburban Skokie became the focal point of Chicago’s Filipino community Thursday morning, as local officials, media and corporate officers from overseas piled into the Midwest’s first Jollibee location. The fast-food restaurant is slated to open Friday morning, and the company’s hype machine was in full form.
Before opening, Jollibee officials conduct a ritual involving a giant bucket of fried chicken. No, it’s not like in "Major League." Corporate executives lead what they call the Chickenjoy toast, where they raise a piece of fried chicken as it was a glass of champagne and toast to the success of the restaurant. Of course, there’s also an appearance by the mascot, Jollibee. The fury bee danced around to strangely hypnotic music which included the chorus, "Jollibee is your friend." Many who grew up in the Philippines know this song all too well.
America’s first Jollibee opened 18 years ago in Daly City, Calif. and they’ve watched Chicago’s Filipino population grow into the country’s third largest. The restaurant offers a taste of home with spaghetti with a sweet red sauce garnished with hot dog slices.
Skokie represents their 34th restaurant in the U.S. There’s 1,081 worldwide, and next year there’s plans for a restaurant in Manhattan. The restaurant’s parent company, JFC, also owns 40 percent of the Smashburger chain. JFC also owns Red Ribbon, the Filipino bakery chain that’s opening a location later this year in Chicago at Seafood City.
The restaurant opens at 7 a.m. Friday, and officials expect diners to start lining up early Friday morning. A spokeswoman said they’ll cut off the line at 11 p.m., an hour later than the restaurant usually would stay open.