Jolly good

Jollibee’s ambitious plans for international expansion have brought the Philippines’ largest fast food chain to Europe, with significant growth in branches on the cards for the next five years

There are not too many brands who can say that their launch in a new location has seen customers queue for over 18 hours to get a taste of their products. Yet, when Jollibee made its debut in Earl’s Court in London in October 2018, there was so much buzz about it that the staff had to go beyond their best to serve thousands of enthusiasts who were yearning to sink their teeth into its legendary Chickenjoy fried chicken.

When Jollibee was founded by Tony Tan Caktiong and his family in 1975 as an ice cream parlour, little did they think that their enterprise would grow into one of the biggest and most iconic brands in the Philippines, and one that is fast gaining international recognition. Through promoting a family-oriented approach to personnel management, the company has grown to become the largest fast food chain in the archipelagic country, running over 1100 stores across its territory today. Over time, Jollibee has also set up outlets in other Asian regions, as well as in the US and Canada. Naturally, the brand’s growth whetted its appetite, setting Europe in its sights for further expansion.

Value for money
“Without a doubt, Europe offers a massive opportunity for us to grow into an internationally-recognised brand,” comments Jollibee’s Market Head Europe, Adam Parkinson. “Before the London opening, the very first restaurant we opened on the continent, was in Milan in March 2018. The UK, Italy, and Spain are the three markets we are initially focusing on, due to the large Filipino diaspora in these countries, but we are certainly planning to roll out into other markets. So far, we have been incredibly pleased with the community reaction in both Milan and London, which encourages us to continue in a similar vein.”

Jollibee has certainly picked a good time to enter the European market. With Europeans leading busier lives in ever-challenging economic conditions, they are increasingly relying on the quick service industry for budget-friendly ways to eat high-quality products on the go. “I do not believe that the current market climate will change any time soon,” Adam predicts. “In recent years, we have seen families favouring quick service restaurants over other restaurant formats because of value for money. In these conditions, brands like Jollibee that provide delicious tasting food served with warm hospitality are set to thrive.”

Tasty comfort food
Focusing on the company’s UK activities, he reveals that Jollibee is about to ramp up its operations with the opening of two new branches – in Liverpool and Leicester. In addition, the company is in the process of assessing its possibilities of opening restaurants further north, presently looking at sites in Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. “The UK is one of the strongest quick service chicken markets in Europe. To illustrate this, the biggest chicken chain has more than 900 restaurants across the country. We feel that we have a special fried chicken that a lot will find to be really delicious, and we can also provide a better overall experience.”

Jollibee’s flagship menu item, which has also proven a best seller across Europe, is the aforementioned Chickenjoy. Hand-prepared in store, this fried chicken tickles the taste buds with its unique breading that makes it crispy and juicy, but without the grease. “It is definitely the product that keeps the customers coming back at the moment. We are especially proud of its popularity, but we also offer other flavourful food that is surprisingly tasty and yet comforting,” Adam remarks. “These include our Jolly Spaghetti with sweet sauce and chopped hotdog pieces; and the Yumburger filled with a slice of pineapple, lettuce, bacon strip, cheese, and honey mustard dressing.

“In general, we offer a mix of Asian and Western taste that is well-received by different demographics,” he adds. “Jollibee has not only proven to be a crowd-drawer in its home country, but it is well-received in different markets where a large portion of its customers are the locals or non-Filipinos. For example, in Manhattan, New York, more than half of its customers are non-Filipinos. In Singapore and Hong Kong, the locals are the main patrons for a lot of its stores. In Vietnam and Brunei, almost 100 per cent of customers are the locals.

“We have also started to grow a strong European following. In fact, our next restaurant opening is in Liverpool – a city, which accommodates only a small number of Filipinos, and, therefore, is expected to have a higher number of non-Filipino customers. I think that our decision to set up an outlet in Liverpool speaks volumes of the confidence we have in our success even in areas with fewer Filipinos,” Adam discusses.

Market expansion
That Jollibee is serious in its intentions to become one of the leading players in the fast food scene in Europe, is further highlighted by the business’ idea to establish a localised supply chain for the benefit of all stakeholders. “We believe that first impression is key and that, if we want to impress our guests and ensure that they return, we need to provide the very best ingredients. That being said, it is imperative that all of our products are as fresh as possible at all times. This is the reason why we want to have a localised supply chain. What is more, the consolidation of the supply chain to Europe and locally within each market will enable us to keep our prices affordable for our customers,” Adam reasons.

“Our unhurried approach has allowed us to evaluate the business model for Europe and manage any teething problems before expanding. Consolidation of the supply chain, evaluation of product offerings, and concentration on in-store operations over the past year has ensured that we now have a model ready to be rolled out across other markets,” he continues.

“Ideally, we would like to see the business thriving with at least 50 restaurants all over Europe within the next five years. It is an exciting prospect for us and we believe we have the right prerequisites and company ethos to do that. As we continue to pursue our objectives in Europe, we will keep offering great tasting food served with warm customer service because this is what has driven our growth over the course of our existence,” Adam concludes.

Jollibee is one of 15 brands of Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), one of the largest Asian restaurant companies in the world operating in 35 countries with over 5800 stores globally. It has nine wholly owned brands (Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Mang Inasal, Yonghe King, Hong Zhuang Yuan, Smashburger, and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf), three franchised brands (Burger King and Panda Express in the Philippines; and Dunkin’ Donuts in certain territories in 21China), a 60 per cent ownership in the SuperFoods Group that owns Highlands Coffee and PHO24 brands.

JFC also has investments in Titan Dining LP, the ultimate holding entity of Tim Ho Wan Pte. Ltd. (the Master Franchisee of Tim Ho Wan in the Asia Pacific region excluding Hong Kong); and a business venture with award-winning Chef Rick Bayless to build Tortazo, the Mexican fast-casual restaurant recently launched in the United States.