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Jollibee seals deal to buy Mexican food outfit in US

/ 05:26 AM December 24, 2018

Fast-food giant Jollibee Foods Corp. has finalized a deal to acquire 47 percent of the Tortas Frontera business founded by award-winning Chef Rick Bayless, marking its debut into the Mexican restaurant space in the United States.

The partnership with Bayless has been formalized through a $12.4-million investment by JFC to buy into Chicago-based Tortas Frontera LLC. The remaining 53-percent interest will be held by Bayless and other shareholders.

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The partnership is seen to “build a significant business in the large and fast-growing Mexican food category in the United States,” JFC told the Philippine Stock Exchange on Friday.

The investment deal also expands JFC’s footprint in US food retailing. Its takeover of Colorado-based Smashburger chain, 100 percent of which it now owns, earlier allowed it to enter the mainstream American hamburger market.

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The fast-casual dining chain Tortas Frontera offers hand-crafted tortas (griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches with a variety of fillings such as beer-braised beef short ribs, chipotle chicken, garlicky shrimp and goat cheese), molletes (warm, open-faced sandwiches) and hand-shaken margaritas. They also feature a guacamole bar with freshly made guacamole and the customer’s choice of toppings.

This brand currently has four restaurants in the United States—three in Chicago O’Hare International Airport and one at The Arc in the University of Pennsylvania.

Founder Chef Bayless is mostly known for his Chicago restaurants, long-running public television series and for winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters with his authentic Mexican cuisine. He has received numerous James Beard Awards, the most prestigious recognition in culinary art in the United States, including “National Chef of the Year,” “Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” (twice) and “Humanitarian of the Year.”

JFC previously announced interest to enter the Mexican restaurant business in the US due to its huge potential. Mexican food is a rapidly growing and very popular segment in the US restaurant industry with estimated industry sales of $40-45 billion in 2017.

By 2023 at the earliest, JFC expects to generate half of its total business from foreign markets. With the consolidation of the 351-store Smashburger into its books, the overseas business now accounts for 30 percent of total.

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TAGS: Chef Rick Bayless, Jollibee Foods Corp., Tortas Frontera
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