The Philippines’ leading fast food chain Jollibee opened its first site in the UK (and second in Europe) this week.
Being such a large chain brand – comprising over 4,300 stores across 20 countries – Jollibee has a wide network of staff across the globe, headed up by CEO Ernesto “Ato” Tanmantiong. Tanmantiong also manages six brands in China, Vietnam and the USA, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Highland Coffee and Smashburger. On these shores, however, Dennis M. Flores takes the reins. The president and head for international business across the group, Flores is responsible for the company’s entry into the market in Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Guam, Australia, Italy and the UK. The main face of Jollibee, however, is undoubtedly its mascot- a giant red and white bee wearing a little hat and jacket.
Despite appearing initially to serve similar fare to the UK's existing fast food restaurants, there are certain menu items on offer at Jollibee that would not be seen at the likes of McDonalds or KFC. The restaurant’s signature is undoubtedly its Chickenjoy chicken, which is marinated, breaded and fried. The restaurant calls it “crispylicious and juicylicious”, although for a UK market that is accustomed to the spice blend used at Southern fried chicken restaurants, Chickenjoy might be found to be lacking flavour. Familiar items such as beef ‘Yumburgers’ are also on the menu, but one of the more unusual menu items is the signature Jolly Spaghetti. Comprising a box of spaghetti topped with chopped up hotdogs, sweet tomato sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, the dish looks bizarre and not entirely appetising- although the late Anthony Bourdain was reportedly a fan of it. Conventional sides such as French fries sit alongside more unusual options including pucks of rice wrapped up in paper – which can be topped with a burger and gravy – and buttered corn.
The restaurant has the distinct feel of a fast food joint about it, although the murals of the bee mascot adorning the walls make it feel a little bit wackier than the UK’s equivalent outlets, which are a bit less garish. Pictures of the restaurant’s famous Chickenjoy chicken drumsticks adorn the walls, and behind the tills are lightboxes displaying the menu items. On the day of the launch, the majority of the staff seemed to be Filipino, and the style of service was almost overly friendly in comparison with that of the equivalent UK restaurants. Servers wear hats and aprons with the Jollibee mascot on them, and provide table service for certain items.
And another thing
On the day of the launch, the queue for the restaurant saw some fans of the brand queue for 18 hours. Many of those in the queue were people from the Philippines who were hungry for a taste of home. One customer described the launch as being on a par with the level of happiness she felt when she “graduated, got married, and had kids.” Fans in the regional areas of the country need not feel left out, however, as Dennis Flores told BigHospitality that three more openings are planned- and not a single one is scheduled to be in the capital.