Expanding from Jamaica

Juici Patties chain brings its flaky turnovers to the U.S., starting in Broward

JAMAICAN FAST FOOD CHAIN COMING TO GREATER MIAMI

Jamaica’s largest fast-food chain is expanding into the United States, with plans for an initial 26 stores in Florida over the next five years, starting in Greater Miami.

Juici Patties, which already has 63 locations in its Caribbean homeland, is growing through franchises, which also account for most of its stores in Jamaica. Juici Patties’ first U.S. store opened last month in Hollywood, the touristy coastal enclave just south of Fort Lauderdale. The U.S. outlets will offer the chain’s flaky turnovers, which come stuffed with beef, chicken curry, vegetables, and other fillings. They will focus on combo platters, with a patty, sliced avocado, fried plantains, and a drink, making it easy for customers to say, “Give me a No. 1, or give me a No. 2,” says Daniel Chin, CEO for the U.S. and COO worldwide. Combos likely will run about $10 and a single patty about $3.50 in Florida this year, says Chin.

The expansion caps six years of preparation, with Juici Patties working with U.S.-based consultants with executive experience at such fast-food chains as McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. Those consultants helped the Jamaican company develop an operations manual, streamline the process for opening stores, and adopt software for tracking franchisees, scheduling construction, and expanding by U.S. zip code, says Chin. 

Daniel Chin, Juici Patties’ CEO for the U.S. and COO worldwide

“Even before we started recruiting franchisees in the United States, we’ve been adopting these best practices and applying these procedures in Jamaica,” says Chin. The effort led to more stores on the island and a 2023 award for the best customer service at Jamaica’s fast-food chains.

WHY EXPAND TO FLORIDA?

Juici Patties chose Florida to begin its overseas expansion partly because of the large Jamaica community in the Sunshine State. Many non-Jamaicans in Florida are already familiar with Jamaican patties and cuisine, making the nearby state “a logical first step,” says Chin. Its U.S. stores will run about 1,400 square feet, with 15 to 20 seats each, he estimates. After Florida, Juice Patties aims to grow in New York, Texas, and Georgia, which also host large Jamaican and Caribbean communities.

U.S. expansion wasn’t top of mind when Chin’s dad Jukie started the business in 1978. Back then, at age 16, Jukie cooked up batches of patties in his mom’s kitchen and sold them in a shop at the front of his Chinese-Jamaican family’s home. In 1980, Jukie opened his first store as Juici Beef Patties. Franchising came in the 1990s. Today, the renamed chain keeps a 20-acre headquarters with offices, a manufacturing plant, a recreation area, a restaurant, and other features. In all, it employs about 1,800 people in Jamaica, most full-time, making 48 million patties a year, says Chin.

Of course, success at home doesn’t guarantee success overseas, especially in the competitive U.S. market. Entrants must contend with such issues as differences in the taste of ingredients, higher labor costs, and limited name recognition in a larger market. Social media often plays a greater role in U.S. marketing too, says Peter Ricci, director of the hospitality and tourism program at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. What’s more, Ricci says, South Florida has “a multitude of Caribbean and Jamaican food offerings already.”

Chin embraces the US challenge, bolstered by Juici Patties’ success in selling to supermarkets in 11 Caribbean nations and the United Kingdom. He’s already excited to offer a new combo: curry-chicken patty with sliced avocado, thanks to the year-round availability of avocados in the U.S.

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