There’s buzz in Chicago and in the Philippines after Jollibee — the fast-food giant with two Chicago-area locations — announced a $12.4 million deal to buy stake in Rick Bayless’ fast-casual chain, Tortas Frontera. Jollibee — a global titan that serves Filipino-style spaghetti, fried chicken, and burgers — wants to launch a massive expansion of the Bayless brand, opening more Tortas Fronteras across the country.
There are currently four Tortas Fronteras, including one very popular location operated by airport concession company HMS Host at O’Hare International Airport. But four more are now slated to open in the Chicago area in the next two years, the Tribune reports, including one next year and three more in 2020.
While Bayless is known for Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, his more fine dining landmarks in River North, the chef’s fast-casual brand has been a cash cow with soups, tortas, tacos, and loaded guacamole. There’s room for Mexican food to grow in America. Think about it: right now, Taco Bell is the most popular ”Mexican” restaurant in America.
Filipino immigrants flipped two years ago when Jollibee arrived in Skokie and lined up for days waiting for a taste of home and to pose with the chain’s mascot, a red and yellow bee. The chain opened a another location a few months later in Chicago inside the Seafood City supermarket.
The company purchased a 47 percent stake in Tortas Frontera after previously investing in other chains. They sunk $100 million into Smashburger, as the Tribune noted. Jollibee, which owns different brands, runs about 2,300 restaurants across the world including 34 in America.