Filipino fast-food giant Jollibee is to open its first Edmonton location later this year, part of what one food blogger says is a growing local appetite for Asian and other international cuisine.
The company confirmed to Global News it plans to open its Edmonton store, located at 3803 Calgary Trail south of Whitemud Drive, in the fourth quarter of this year.
It already has four locations in Canada, including two in the Toronto area and two in Winnipeg.
The company’s menu contains items that may be news to some Canadian palates: known as “the McDonald’s of the Philippines,” the restaurant has diverse offerings such as fried chicken, sweet-style spaghetti sauce and noodles, and peach mango pie.
Jollibee Foods Corporation’s aggressive international expansion includes a focus on Canada, where Filipino food is seeing a rise in visibility with several higher-end Filipino restaurants opening in recent years, as well as a major grocery store catering to cooks of the cuisine.
Lixmila Serrano, who has run a Filipino variety store in south Edmonton for 20 years, said the new Jollibee location is likely to see strong demand.
“It’s about the culture, it’s about the food,” Serrano said. “[Filipinos] have a different taste of chicken, we have a different taste of spaghetti.”
One of her customers, Carmencita A. De Ramos, remembers seeing Jollibee on almost every corner when she lived in the Philippines.
“It’s a very, very good taste,” De Ramos said. “You have to be proud of it. Filipinos love it.”
Canada’s large and growing Filipino population coupled with many Canadians’ eagerness to sample international cuisines make the country a prime choice for Filipino food service businesses.
The Philippines was the no. 1 country of birth of recent immigrants to Canada, according to figures from Statistic Canada’s 2016 census, with 188,805 people or 15.6 per cent of all recent immigrants being born there.
Before opening a location in Toronto last year, the company said it primarily targets communities with a large Filipino population, so Canada made good business sense.
International cuisine trend
Edmonton has seen a lot of new Asian food options pop up in recent years. According to local food blogger Linda Hoang, it’s a sign of residents’ growing taste for new and different foods.
Just across the parking lot from the planned Jollibee, H-Mart, a supermarket specializing in Korean food, is set to open soon.
Hoang told Global News Edmontonians want to spend their money on good, interesting food and are being rewarded accordingly.
“I think it means that there’s going to be a lot more variety and options for Edmontonians on what they can do, where they can eat, [and] how they can play in and around the city,” Hoang said.
Founded in the Philippines in 1975, Jollibee now has over 1,000 restaurants worldwide.
WATCH: Jollibee opens in Toronto, some line up for several hours (2018)
— With files from The Canadian Press