With OFW support, Jollibee can be world’s No. 1

"The company that started out as an ice cream store in 1978 truly has done this country proud."


In one of the conversations that I had with her last year, one of my daughters, the one who lives in New York City, had a lament to make to me. A resident of Manhattan, she had traveled to the neighboring borough of Queens to satisfy her nostalgic desire for Jollibee Foods’ Corporation’s Chickenjoy. She had to wait a very long time, because the Sunday morning queue was so long. She learned that the other Filipinos in the queue had traveled all the way to Queens from other places in the Tri-State (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) areas.

I speak of the other Filipinos in the queue because some of the queuers were apparently Caucasians. Perhaps they were in-laws or friends of Filipinos, or maybe they had stayed in this country and had a taste of Chickenjoy and of the other Jollibee offerings.

Now residents of Manhattan and other Tri-State places need travel to Queens no longer. In its latest foreign-expansion move, Jollibee Foods opened, a few weeks ago, a branch in the 8thAvenue-39thSt. area of New York City’s main borough. Media reports of the long awaited opening indicate that many of the would-be customers had waited on the sidewalk all night to be among the first to enter the new branch.

The story appears to have been the same with regard to the earlier opening of Jollibee’s London branch. The media reports indicated that would-be customers waited on the sidewalk fronting the branch, which is located in the near-central London district of Earlo Court (close to the Notting Hill district of Julia Roberts’ romantic opus). Most of the estimated 200,000 Filipino residents in the United Kingdom live in and around London.

With the advent of Jollibee Foods Corporation on the London food scene, the Philippine food industry is now well represented in Britain’s capital city. In 2017 the chain of Romulo’s restaurants—obviously named after the late statesman Carlos P. Romulo—inaugurated its first foreign restaurant in the nearby Kensington District.

With the opening of its Manhattan branch, Jollibee Foods is by no means done with its overseas expansion. Plans are well afoot for the opening of a branch in Milan, Italy’s industrial capital, which is yet another European city with a sizeable Filipino population. After Milan, can Paris, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam and Brussels be far behind?

The answer is a clear No. Jollibee Foods set itself a target a few years ago—to be the world’s fifth largest QSR (quick-service restaurant) chain by 2020; in the latest ranking it is No. 8. The company’s management, which is headed by Chairman/Founder Tony Tan Caktiong, recently reiterated its resolve to meet the No. 5 target. Mr. Tan Caktiong said nothing about being the world’s No. 1; but why not No. 1?

Jollibee Foods’ series of foreign acquisitions suggest that it does not consider being No. 5 the end of the road. In recent years the company has acquired fast-food chains in the US, China and Vietnam. The acquisitions are nothing if not astute. The number of restaurants that have come with the acquisition have been added through the company-owned and franchised Jollibee establishments in this country. Two years ago Jollibee Foods opened its 2000th Philippine branch. 

There can be no doubt that the Philippine Diaspora—the exodus of millions of Filipinos to all the corners of the globe in search of employment has brought economic benefits to this country beyond the billions of dollars sent by OFW (overseas Filipino workers) back to the Motherland. Perhaps the most valuable of these other benefits are the ready markets that OFWs provide Philippine business enterprises wishing to undertake overseas expansion. True, Chickenjoy has a taste that can measure up against any competition in its field. But the presence, in New York City, London and elsewhere, of thousands of nostalgia-filled Filipinos has undoubtedly been a big help.

Given the mass-based, all-cash nature of its business, Jollibee Foods should have no difficulty financing the attainment of its QSR target. In its latest report to the Securities and Exchange Commission the company gave a further indication of its financial muscle. For the first nine months of 2018 Jollibee Foods posted a net income of just over P6 billion. That is a lot of cash for further acquisitions. And the cash just keeps flowing in.

An 8thplace world rank in its industry? That’s a source of honor for the Philippines. Jollibee Foods Corporation, the company that started out as an ice cream store in 1978, truly has done this country proud.

Topics: Rudy Romero , OFW , Jollibee Foods’ Corporation , Chickenjoy , New York City
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