JOLLIBEE Foods Corp. (JFC) is opening the country’s first Panda Express store in SM Megamall, Pasig City.

The announcement comes a year after the homegrown food giant said it has entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Panda Express operator, Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. The JV firm, called JBPX Foods, Inc., has an authorized capital stock of $5 million.

JFC earlier said it will open five stores during the initial phase of the partnership.

The company started out as a sit-down Chinese restaurant called Panda Inn founded by father and son tandem Ming Tsai and Andrew Cherng in 1973. This led to the creation of Panda Express in Glendale, California in 1983.

It has since expanded to more than 2,100 locations, with stores in Canada, Guatemala, Aruba, Japan, Mexico, El Salvador, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Panda Express’ dishes include the Original Orange Chicken — the most famous on its menu after having sold more than 90 million pounds worldwide; Kung Pao Chicken, Broccoli Beef, and Shanghai Steak.

“Panda Express has successfully popularized American Chinese cuisine through authentic Chinese recipes adapted to global tastes, setting the brand up as the largest Asian dining concept in the US and the largest American Chinese concept in the world,” JFC said in a statement.

The partnership with Panda Express forms part of JFC’s aggressive acquisition mode in a bid to increase the brands under its portfolio. The company recently closed the $350-million deal to purchase beverage chain The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL), marking its largest acquisition to date.

CBTL is now the company’s largest business after the Jollibee brand, with the entire coffee business — including Highlands Coffee — accounting for 14% of worldwide system sales.

JFC’s net income attributable to the parent fell 34% to P2.66 billion in the first half of 2019, amid a 10% uptick in gross revenues to P84.85 billion.

Shares in JFC firmed up 0.82% or P1.80 to close at P222 each at the stock exchange on Monday. — Arra B. Francia