- Jollibee will bring its Filipino fried chicken to 150 more locations in the U.S. and 100 in Canada within the next five years. Now with 37 U.S. stores, these additions will aid the chain's goal of becoming a top-five quick-service restaurant, CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong told Bloomberg last week.
- "This is just the first leg of our journey, to be one of the major players in the fried chicken market," he told Bloomberg, noting the field's robust size in the U.S.
- Since opening two ice cream parlors in the Philippines in the 1970s, Jollibee Foods Corporation, which owns 14 brands, including Smashburger and Tortas Frontera, has expanded to 4,300 stores in 20 countries. In growing Jollibee, now at 900-plus locations worldwide, Tanmantiong has focused on regions with large Filipino communities but anticipates reaching more "mainstream" markets.
While Jollibee serves hamburgers and an array of Filipino classics, what seems to be alluring more "mainstream" customers, as Tanmantiong said, is its signature Chickenjoy fried chicken. Jollibee offers chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches and buckets of chicken wings — something fans of rivals KFC and Popeyes know well. Yum Brands and Restaurant Brands International, each chain's parent company, should flag Jollibee's desire to expand on their turf. Chick-fil-A probably has the least to worry about, as it boasts the highest average store sales of any quick-service chain at $4.4 million and will become the third-largest U.S. chain by 2020.
Jollibee is keying into not only the robust nature of the U.S. fried chicken market but also U.S. consumers' appetite for exotic flavors. Chicken has also blossomed into a core product for non-chicken chains like McDonald's and Burger King, due in part to its higher ticket price and Americans' gravitation away from red meat.
If KFC and Popeyes in particular want to continue domestic growth, they might turn even more attention to innovation. KFC, for instance, unveiled its version of Nashville hot chicken in 2016, a style that had already gained steam on independent restaurant menus in hip urban centers. Meanwhile, since 2009, Popeyes has grown from a regional chain in 30% of the U.S. to a global brand with eyes on 4,000 stores by 2026.
As Tanmantiong described, the company has focused on areas with high Filipino populations, including Saudi Arabia. More than 1 million of the nearly 4 million Filipinos in the U.S. — about 60% of whom were born here or are naturalized citizens according to Pew Research Center — live in California, which currently houses 22 of the chain's 37 U.S. stores. New York City, Honolulu, Chicago, Las Vegas and Seattle also have large Filipino populations and, not coincidentally, Jollibee has opened at least one store in each of those areas, as well as Houston; Jacksonville, Florida; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In the Philippines, Jollibee claims to control more of its home market than all other multinational brands combined, operating 750 stores across the Philippines. It also runs about 100 Burger Kings and in China works with Dunkin' Donuts. Elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S., the company also operates hundreds of Red Ribbon bakeshops and Chowkings, the Chinese-Filipino brand. Systemwide sales have jumped upwards of 20%; the company doesn't disclose precise figures for Jollibee or its other brands.
For Filipinos, Jollibee represents a taste of home. In addition to the chicken, customers can try sweet barbeque pork served with rice; the American-Filipino mashup of spaghetti with ketchup, sliced hot dogs and cheddar cheese; "fiesta noodles," the chain's version of pancit palabok, a traditional dish of thin rice noodles with pork and shrimp slathered in a garlicky sauce; and Halo-Halo, an all-in-one dessert cup stuffed with ice cream, flan, sweet beans, fruit, gummies and evaporated milk. The first NYC location opened in Queens in 2009, and when another opened, the city’s 241,000 Filipinos couldn't wait. In Chicago, home to 137,000 Filipinos, customers waited up to 10 hours.