MANILA -- American burger chain Shake Shack plans to open its first branch in the Philippines next year, its first in Southeast Asia.
The company has struck a licensing agreement with SSI Group, a listed upscale retailer in the Philippines, which disclosed the deal on Wednesday. The tandem is still searching for the first location, which will open in the spring of 2019.
Shake Shack is a fast casual restaurant chain in the U.S. known for its Angus beef burgers, but it also offers chicken sandwiches and Vienna beef hot dogs. Its entry into the Philippines, a former U.S. colony where American-style fast food is popular, comes as homegrown fast-food leader Jollibee Foods is preparing to expand its Smashburger chain in the Philippines.
Smashburger, the Denver-based company controlled by Jollibee, competes with Shake Shack in the U.S. upscale burger segment along with other players such as Five Guys. Jollibee is looking to open Smashburger in the Philippines and Singapore in two years, officials said.
The expansion moves by U.S. casual dining chains underscore the demand for more upscale food in a growing economy underpinned by an expanding middle class and a young working population. New York-based Shake Shack debuted in Asia via Japan in 2015 before opening stores in South Korea and recently in Hong Kong.
SSI's portfolio is dominated by high-end fashion brands like Hugo Boss and Gucci, and Shake Shack will add to its food labels, which include luxury tea shop chain TWG and the SaladStop! chain of restaurants. SSI is controlled by the Tantoco family, which also operates the Philippines Starbucks franchise, which has grown rapidly in recent years.
Shares of SSI jumped by over 9% at Wednesday's closing bell, becoming the second best-performing stock in Manila.