Massive Filipino firm Jollibee Foods Corp. announced a $12.4 million deal with Tortas Frontera LLC on September 7, giving the company a 47 percent stake in Rick Bayless’ Mexican fast casual. Bayless and other shareholders will still hold a majority of the company after the deal.
“We at Jollibee Foods Corporation are very excited about this new partnership. We have great admiration for Chef Rick Bayless for being a top chef, for being a successful restaurateur and for his philanthropic endeavors,” JFC chair Tony Tan Caktiong said in a statement.
JFC is the largest foodservice company in Asia with 4,379 stores worldwide, as of the end of June. It has 436 North American units, including 349 Smashburgers, 37 Jollibee US stores, three Jollibee Canada locations, 32 Red Ribbons, and 15 Chowkings.
In the Philippines, the company runs 1,094 locations under the Jollibee brand, 542 Chowkings, 277 Greenwich stores, 434 Red Ribbon units, 415 Man Inasals, and 96 Burger Kings.
In February, JFC announced it was taking a $100 million stake in Smashburger, which brought its ownership from 45 percent to 85 percent.
There are currently four Tortas Frontera restaurants—three at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and one at the University of Pennsylvania. He also directs other Chicago restaurants and Disney Springs, Orlando, Florida, concept Frontera Cocina.
Tortas Frontera specializes in hand-shaken margaritas, molletes, hand-crafted tortas, and guacamole. Conde Naste Traveler named it the best airport restaurant in the U.S. back in 2014.
Caktiong said the deal would set the concept up for growth. “Together with Chef Rick Bayless' organization and brand Tortas Frontera, we will build a significant business in the large and fast-growing Mexican food category in the United States,” he said.
Bayless won a James Beard: Outstanding Restaurant award in 2007; Outstanding Chef in 1995; and Best Chef: Great Lakes in 1991.