Foreign Fast Food Shows American Appetites are Recession-Proof

Growing fast and furious

Photo from courtesy of Jollibee Foods.

Photo from courtesy of Jollibee Foods.

Though higher-end restaurants are struggling as people try to scrimp and save, fast food restaurants in the United States are doing as well as ever. In fact, more foreign fast food restaurants are opening locations in the United States, even during this recession.

CNN Money wrote a series on several foreign fast food restaurants that are continuing to spread their businesses across the United States. Here are some highlights.


CNN Money says “Jollibee is known universally as the McDonald’s of the Philippines.” There isn’t a Jollibee anywhere near me, unfortunately, but this place sounds pretty good. Jollibee burgers can come with pineapple on them and sides of spaghetti. A side of spaghetti with a burger? Sure, why not.

I like the cute, smiling bee that’s the restaurant’s mascot. Also, instead of apple pies like McDonald’s, Jollibee has mango pies. Sounds delicious! And, because it’s fast food, you can keep up on your debt consolidation loan and still afford to eat there. Jollibee also serves a side dish called palabok, made of shrimp and noodles, and fried chicken.

Pollo Campero

Speaking of chicken, another restaurant continuing to open U.S. stores is Pollo Campero, the Guatemalan chicken place that beat out KFC in South America. CNN Money writes:

The problem, however, is describing exactly what Pollo Campero’s taste is. “Even when you talk to most experienced and devoted followers,” says Roberto Denegri, president of Campero USA, “describing the flavor is so hard.”

So as the chain grows in the United States — 52 stores so far, since they first opened in 2002 — they’re trying out a new marketing slogan this year: “Flavor you can’t Compero.”

Although it is a fast food place, it serves exotic foods — well, foods that seem exotic here in the U.S. — like yucca fries and fried plantains, and drinks like horchata, cinnamon-flavored milk served cold, and agua de tamarindo, a sweet-and-sour fruit drink. Pollo Campero is growing quickly and ambitiously. It has 52 U.S. stores now and plans to bring that number to 300 by 2014, so keep an eye out.

Chutney Joe’s

I am a huge fan of Indian food, but in some areas it’s so hard to find! If Chutney Joe’s has its way, though, that won’t be the case anymore. The founder, Vijay Puniani, had a restaurant in New Delhi, but moved to the U.S. to work in real estate. Apparently cooking and serving Indian food is where his heart is because he is back to it.

Chutney Joe’s uses healthy cooking techniques — no frying — and doesn’t use butter or heavy cream. Puniani said turning Chutney Joe’s into a fast food chain is challenging because Indian food is complex and consistency is an important element of a chain. He’s managed to focus on a few simpler dishes, and he plans to open five new locations in Chicago in the near future before expanding to New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.


Most Americans have had Indian and Latin American food, but cuisine from South Africa is not easy to come by unless you’re in a large city. One of those places you could get South African food in Washington, D.C. is Nando’s, which expanded to several other countries — Botswana, Australia and Great Britain just to name a few — before finally coming to the U.S.

Though Nando’s serves foreign food, it’s using a very American marketing strategy, which is to tell people that Oprah Winfrey is a fan. No one’s saying that isn’t true, but I am hoping that the food will be able to speak for itself when it expands to 10 more stores in the next couple of years. CNN Money says:

At the heart of this chain is a Portuguese-style of cooking chicken in a spicy, vinegary sauce known as “peri-peri,” brought to South Africa long ago by Portuguese explorers.

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